A distant cousin of President Barack Obama was in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to witness history being created as Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. Henry Healy, a ninth cousin to the president, told the Irish Voice after the inauguration and while waiting to catch a glimpse of his cousin that it was nothing short of surreal to be part of such a historic day in Washington. Healy and Obama's connection goes back as far as 1760. "Sarah Healy married a Joseph Kearny. They are great grandparents of Falmouth Kearney, who emigrated the States," he said. Healy, who was celebrating the inauguration of the first black president to the U.S. at the Ronald Reagan Trade Center on Pennsylvania Avenue along with 300 guests of the American Ireland Fund, described the atmosphere as moving. "It was great to be here with fellow Irishmen and women watching and listening to his speech. Here today it's like a home away from home," said Healy. Describing the room as electric, Healy added that for most of the speech you could hear a pin drop. "There were points when Obama came out with something great and then there would be rapturous applause from the room," he said. The 24-year old accountant from Moneygall, Co. Offaly, the small town that Obama's ancestors hail from, felt his distant cousin's inaugural speech was "one of the most powerful I ever heard" from any head of state in his lifetime. "The speech was so moving. He was hard hitting and powerful," said Healy. Healy, who has been in Washington since Monday and returns to Ireland Thursday evening, said he realized while listening to Obama up on the presidential podium that they were one of a kind. "You'd know he had Irish roots. Only an Irishman could speak like that," he said. Healy said it was an honor for him, as a long distant cousin to the president, to have been invited over to Washington to celebrate with the millions of other Americans who are also overjoyed to see Obama take over the most prestigious office in the world. Although not able to get a ticket for the inauguration, Healy was perching himself on a balcony of the Ronald Reagan center in the hopes of seeing Obama during the parade route. "Who knows, he many even stop and wave," hoped Healy. Healy was accompanied on the trip by Canon Stephen Neill and the Corrigan Brothers, who recently shot to fame for their song "There's No One as Irish as Barack O'Bama," and they weren't alone. Irish television and radio journalists followed the boys on their historic trip. "Being here and in the midst of all the atmosphere is just great," said Healy. "But there is still part of me that has to ask myself am I really related to this amazing guy. If I'm ever fortunate enough to meet him it might make it more real, but for now I don't think it has sunk in at all," he said. Meanwhile, back in Moneygall, there was traffic jams on the narrow roads of the village. The village was swarmed with national media stations looking to capture the pride of the locals, as one of their own becomes president of the U.S. "I'm hearing from home that truck drivers are passing through the village with Obama masks on," laughed Healy.
The Irish pub that became home base for 9/11 ground zero rescuers