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President Obama and Ireland - a love story

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PHOTOS:  President Obama's trip to Ireland - photo gallery

At the end of this week, we’re likely to feel a bit bereft.

After all, given the febrile flurry of the last fortnight where we’ve hosted the Queen, the President and, eh, Portuguese football fans, you’d be forgiven for wondering who was next. The Pope maybe? The ghost of Che Guevara? Shirley Bassey? Alas, no. No visitors next week. But even though Obama has left us, at least we have the man who nicked his lines in front of his face.

Throughout President Obama’s visit, Enda Kenny looked like a man who could scarcely believe he was doing all the things he was doing, like Scott Bakula at the start of an episode of Quantum Leap. Unfortunately for him, Kenny’s moment where he looks in the mirror and says “Oh boy” occurred in front of a massive crowd on College Green. No doubt conscious of the gravity of introducing President Obama to a podium, Kenny had some fine words to impart before handing over to his good friend Barry. Unfortunately they were almost identical to the words Obama himself used after beating John McCain in November 2008, with references to “America” crudely scribbled out and replaced with “Ireland”. Enda claims the whole thing was a deliberate homage, and as a man who once wrote a sketch performed in secondary school that was almost exclusively lifted/homaged from Frasier, I’m inclined to take him at his word.

With the exception of a comic interlude where Obama and Kenny were interviewed in leather chairs, and the President talked while Enda had a look on his face like he was pretending to understand medieval French, the Taoiseach had no other real part to play, as Obama ramped around the country wielding shovels, drinking Guinness and meeting the relatives. As if often the case with visits like this, what’s rendered is often secondary to the fact that rendering is being done at all, and in that respect the informality and clear enjoyment exhibited by the President and the First Lady on their trip will live long in the memory.

And as memories go Obama’s speech on College Green, with a crowd that looked as if it enveloped pretty much everything south of the Liffey stirred a considerable amount of nostalgia. The last time such a venture was attempted Bill Clinton achieved nigh on demi-God status for his emotional investment in the Irish peace process, that was fifteen years ago. That day he acknowledged that Irish people admitted “they weren’t there yet” when it came to the foundations of a lasting peace, but this week Obama paid tribute to the progress we’ve made since then. Small wonder the mood was so buoyant.

And if he didn’t do a good enough job of winning Ireland over with his love of porter and his high-flying well-done-you-rhetoric, the fact he got The Beast stuck on a grill sealed it. There’s nothing more Irish than driving down a road you shouldn’t.

PHOTOS:  President Obama's trip to Ireland - photo gallery

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