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The now famous photograph of President Barack Obama and his national security staff as they watch the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound from the White House situation room is a testament to the president's penchant for Irish-Americans, says the Irish Times.
From Bill Daley, Obama's right-hand man as chief of staff, to John Brennan, his counter-terroism adviser, to Obama himself, you'll find that nearly everyone in the picture has a strong Irish connection.
“We’re extremely proud of our heritage,” said Daley, of the Daley dynasty that ruled Chicago for most of the past half century, to the Irish times . “We’ve visited my father’s family from Dungarvan. My mother’s family is from Cork.”
Vice-president Joe Biden’s mother was a Finnegan from Co Mayo. Tom Donilon is the national security adviser, and his brother Mike is on Joe Biden’s staff. The deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonagh, has four Irish-born grandparents.
Says Daley: “We all enjoy laughter. We all enjoy telling stories to each other. We all enjoy each other’s company. You have a natural friend and relationship when someone is Irish or has Irish heritage.”
John Brennan still has family in Roscommon, where his father was born more than 90 years ago. After bin Laden’s death, he briefed the U.S. media along with another Irish-American, White House press secretary Jay Carney. Samantha Power, Obama’s adviser on human rights and one of those who worked hardest to persuade the president to take military action against Gadafy, was born in Cork.
Daley, Donilan, Brennan and Carney -- along with speech-writers Cody Keenan and Ben Rhodes -- are all part of what Michael Collins, Ireland's Ambassador to the U.S., calls Obama's "travelling Irish brigade," that will accompany the president to Ireland on Monday.
“People have noticed how smart President Obama is. I think it’s just the confirmation of his intelligence," jokes Daley of Obama's frequent hiring of Irish-Americans. The chief-of-staff has a framed sign saying “Help Wanted; Irish Need Not Apply” on the bookshelf in his office in the West Wing to remind him "of how far we all have come."
Daley says he does detect Irish traits in the president.
“He has a sense of humour that I don’t think comes through often,” he says. “And he has a seriousness of purpose about helping people. That’s a very Irish trait in my opinion.”
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