Even NBC News has heard of the success of the recently opened Barack Obama Plaza in the Offaly town that gave birth to the president’s great-great-great-grandfather Falmouth Kearney before he left for the U.S. at 19.
Business is booming at the $9 million plaza built by Galway fast food entrepreneur Pat McDonagh according to NBC News reporter Corinne Purtill.
She describes in great detail how the stopover for motorists traveling between Dublin and Limerick is already a huge success, offering a petrol station and food court with a hotel in the pipeline.
Purtill wrote: “Barack Obama’s approval ratings have plunged to George W. Bush levels of unpopularity, with half of Americans saying they don’t like the job he’s doing.
“But if that news has the president feeling low, he can always take heart that at least one place in the world will always be glad to welcome him home.
“That would be this tiny County Offaly village in central Ireland that’s built a cottage industry around its unlikely status as the ancestral home – well, an ancestral home – of the 44th president.”
Purtill sampled the offering at the Barack Obama Plaza and at other locations in the village for herself.
She added: “Although its population of roughly 320 people is smaller than the typical entourage of an American president on a foreign state visit, Moneygall has wholeheartedly embraced its most famous great-great-great-grandson.
“If there are places in the world that don’t like American tourists, Moneygall is not one of them. American flags and Irish tricolors line the village’s main street, which is crammed with as much Obamiana as the place can take.
“There’s the Obama Cafe and Gift Shop, which sells T-shirts reading “Is Feidir Linn” (Gaelic for “Yes We Can”), hurling sticks with the president’s face and reproductions of Shepard Fairey’s famous Obama portrait superimposed over pictures of Moneygall.”
The article on the NBC website explains how the $9 million project is one of the largest single investments in a decade in Ireland’s Midlands region and one of the largest employers for miles around with 70 jobs.
The Plaza also features the President Barack Obama Visitor Centre, a mini-museum dedicated to Obama’s Irish links and Irish-American history which opened on the 4th of July.
As Ireland reaches out to the diaspora, the Obama link with Moneygall is seen as crucial by tourism chiefs in the Midlands.
The president himself did his bit when he visited Ireland – and Moneygall – in 2011 and drank Guinness with publican Ollie Hayes and Henry Healy, a distant cousin.
Speaking in Dublin during that visit, he introduced himself as “Barack Obama, of the Moneygall O’Bamas.”
Ollie’s wife Majella Hayes told NBC: “At the time, it was mayhem, but we lived history, didn’t we? We lived history.”