It helps to have friends in high places, but it's even more helpful if you're cousins. Just ask Irishman Henry Healy, 28, his cousin is the president of the United States.
It all began during Obama's historic first term when an enterprising genealogist uncovered that Heaney was a very distant cousin of the president.
It may have been a moderately diverting news article for most people, but it was absolutely life-changing for the young Irishman. An eight cousin of the President's, Healy was immediately nicknamed Henry VIII.
'I didn’t come up with the name, the president started using it,' Healey told the New York Times during an interview at O’Lunney’s, a landmark Manhattan Irish bar this week.
The story Of Obama's Irish ancestry originally broke in 2007, when it was discovered that the president had distant relatives in Moneygall, a tiny village of 350 people located in County Offaly in the Irish midlands.
Healy found himself becoming named as a spokesman for the village. 'I’d be known as the talkative one,' by family and friends, he confessed.
To forge connections Healy attended Obama's inauguration in January 2009 and sent the president invitations to visit Moneygall. His lobbying methods even included sending the White House the latest information on Obama’s Irish lineage and living relatives.
It worked. When Obama visited Ireland in May 2011, he said in a speech in Dublin that he came from 'the Moneygall Obamas' and that he wanted to 'find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way.'
Better yet Obama actually visited Moneygall, where Healy showed him the house where Falmouth Kearney, their mutual ancestor, had lived. Kearney, who emigrated from Moneygall to Ohio in 1850 at age 19, was the grandfather of Obama’s maternal grandfather.
'When he walked into his ancestral home and pounded his foot on the wooden floor, you could see he really became emotional,' Healy told the Times.
Ten months later, Healy met Obama in the White House for St. Patrick’s Day last year before taking to the presidential limo to visit a local Irish pub, where the president enjoyed but did not finish his pint.
'In fairness, he said he had work to do, and he didn’t want to go back under the influence,' said Healy.
Healy lost his accounting job last year because of economic downsizing, but he reportedly accepted a job offer in June from Ireland Reaching Out, a nonprofit group that recruits volunteers in Ireland to gather genealogical information on people who have left the country and make it available for free to Irish descendants worldwide to foster tourism.
Healy still lives with his mother, a seamstress, in Moneygall and still frequents the local pub, but the Obama connection 'has changed my life, and I’m extremely grateful,' he said.
Healy is in the United States for two weeks to spread word about his employer and he plans on marching in Saturday’s parade with the Irish Business Organization of New York.
Next on his schedule is the high profile St. Patrick’s event at the White House on Tuesday, and then he'll return to Ireland to continue his second term as President Obama's enthusiastic wing man.
'The day after he won re-election,' Healy said, 'strangers were coming up to me shaking my hand and asking if I’d convey their congratulations to the president.'
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