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Irish village embraces Obama as its own

The president's trip to Ireland is seen as a symbol of US-Irish solidarity in hard economic times, but his stop in tiny Moneygall, where his Irish ancestors lived, has been a cause for celebration among residents.

By Correspondent / May 23, 2011

President Barack Obama, left, reacts after he was presented with a hurley stick from Irish Prime Minister and Taoiseach Enda Kenny while in Farmleigh, Dublin, May 23. Obama said Monday that the U.S. and Ireland share a "blood link" that extends beyond strategic interests or foreign policy into the hearts of the millions of Irish Americans who still see a homeland here.

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Moneygall, County Offaly, Ireland

The Birther movement may have been trying to prove President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, but perhaps they should have argued he was born in Ireland. Many here are more than happy to claim him as Irish as he makes his first state visit to the country.

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Hot on the heels of last week's state visit by British Queen Elizabeth, President Obama arrived in Ireland today and Obamamania is already in full swing. He met this morning with Irish president Mary McAleese about peace in northern Ireland and with Prime Minister Enda Kenny about economic policy, but as far as most Irish are concerned, the visit is really about his public appearances, when he addresses a celebration in Dublin and makes a trip to rural Ireland.

The small County Offaly village of Moneygall is home to just under 300 people, including distant relatives to Barack Obama. The town's main street is decked out with both American and Irish flags, the houses and shops are freshly painted, and not a pothole can be found.

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Moneygall resident Mary Ryan says residents are delighted to get a chance to see the most powerful man in the world.

“It’s fantastic for the village. There’s a great buzz around the place and a great community spirit. Everybody’s out helping to prepare,” she says.

Solidarity in dark times

Outside Moneygall, the fact that the US president is willing to come to Ireland is being viewed as an important gesture of friendship by those living in a battered nation.

“I think we’re going through a massive identity crisis after the economic crash and Catholic church abuse scandals, asking ‘are we a failed state?’” says Lindsey Earner-Byrne, a historian at University College Dublin.

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