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Ollie Hayes offers a pint of Guinness to a cut-out of President Obama in his bar in Monegall Village. Photo by: Eamonn Farrell

Tiny Irish village prepares for Obama’s visit to ancestral home

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Ollie Hayes offers a pint of Guinness to a cut-out of President Obama in his bar in Monegall Village. Photo by: Eamonn Farrell

Locals in the Co Offaly village of Moneygall are already gearing up for President Obama’s visit to Ireland in May, according to a story in the Irish Times.

The closest they have come to a visit so far is a cardboard cut-out (pictured) of Obama left in the village by an American visitor. Now they can prepare for the real thing.

The village is where President Obama’s great, great, great grandfather on his mother’s side, Falmouth Kearney, emigrated from in 1850, at the age of 19. He was a shoemaker.

The president might run into a few distant relatives during his visit.

“I’d never claim to be anything other than a distant relative,” said Henry Healy, a bookkeeper and Obama’s eighth cousin.  “But it is surreal to say you share the same lineage with the president of the United States.”

The village post office, run by Pat and Mary Bergin, sells stamps, but no postcards yet.

“I’ll have to go out with my camera and take a few shots,” said Pat Bergin. “We’ve been bypassed since December, and maybe this visit will bring us a few more tourists. We did have people coming in during the American elections asking for us to stamp the Moneygall post office mark on envelopes for them. I would say we’ll have a few more now after this.”

“Up to now, when you say where you’re from, people say ‘Oh, Don-e-gal’?” says Mary Bergin. “They won’t be asking that any more, because they’ll know Moneygall from now on.”

Locals, impatient for the real Obama, have been lining up at Ollie Hayes’ bar to have their picture taken with the cardboard cutout of the president an American tourist gave Hayes 18 months ago.

As soon as Hayes heard the news of Obama’s visit, he told everyone. “The thing is, not alone is it a State visit, but it’s also a personal visit to the home of his ancestors.”

Referring to Ronald Reagan’s 1984 visit to his ancestral Irish home, Ballyporeen, Hayes added: “I think it’ll be fantastic for us, but there won’t be much in it for us afterwards. Ballyporeen kept it going for a while, but we’re in a different world now.”

The site that once housed the Kearney family is now occupied by a property owned by John Donovan, a local hardware shop owner, who rents the property.

Donovan is already preparing for the visit of Obama with gusto but won’t be asking his tenant to vacate the premises for the day.

“I was out this morning already, clearing it off the roof,” he told the Examiner.

“The next thing I have to do is power-hose the front and do a bit of painting. There was supposed to be a plaque on the wall, but it hasn’t gone up yet.”

The tenant at the home of Obama’s maternal great, great, great grandfather will be staying put for the visit.

“Obama might only be here for 10 minutes, but my tenant will be here far longer. And she’s the one who’ll be paying the rent, not Obama,” added Donovan.

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