Ireland’s links to the United States Presidency
From the White House to the Walls of Derry
Away from the lavish golf facilities, or the world-class dining, equestrian pursuits, fishing, shopping and Irish heritage sightseeing, from either luxurious destination in no time you can be at Obama’s patch in County Offaly; in Reagan’s town, Ballyporeen, County Tipperary; or treading Kennedy’s hallowed ground in County Wexford.
You’d also be close to the medieval city of Kilkenny, which like Moneygall is claiming Obama. Magical Kilkenny, the centre of craft in Ireland, is a treasure trove of historical buildings and landmarks, exemplified by the magnificent Kilkenny Castle. A tomb recently discovered at the city’s thirteenth-century St Canice's Cathedral is now the only burial place in Ireland of one of the president’s direct relatives.
Kilkenny is also the birthplace of James Hoban and well worth a visit is an impressive memorial arbour to him, naturally in white, erected by architecture students from the Catholic University of Washington DC and local craftsmen.
Others combine finding out about Irish-American presidents with their own root-searching family history or genealogy trips. Complementing the growing online resources, there are ever-increasing numbers of services in Ireland assisting visitors with their genealogical research. Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel even provides a genealogy butler for guests.
There is also a genealogy centre for those wishing to trace their ancestry at the Queenstown Story Heritage Centre in Cobh (pronounced ‘cove’) in County Cork. Over 2.5 million people departed from Cobh as a result of the Great Famine, making it the single most important place to understand the Irish emigration to America.
Many check out the US presidential history on scenic driving tours, staying in the famous Irish guest houses and B&Bs where they are welcomed like the president and first lady anyway. A really unique trip would be to follow Ulysses S Grant’s five-day tour through Ireland in 1879. It led him from Dublin northwards to Drogheda and Dundalk, and then to a circuit of what is now Northern Ireland, with overnights in both Londonderry and Belfast.
Grant visited the historic Walls of Derry and in Belfast he went to the famous Harland & Wolff Shipyard, which within 20-odd years would build and launch the RMS Titanic. Belfast is organising massive celebrations for the centenary of the most iconic ship in the world for 2012. No US president is at this stage is linked to the great liner. But this is Ireland, give it while.
****Courtesy of Discover Ireland