Obama says U.S. and Ireland have “blood link”

President emphasizes two countries' ancestral ties

Topics: Barack Obama, Ireland,

Obama says U.S. and Ireland have "blood link"From left, President Barack Obama, President of Ireland Mary McAleese and her husband Martin McAleese, and first lady Michelle Obama stop to be photographed as President Barack Obama arrives at the Presidential Residence in Dublin, Ireland, Monday, May 23, 2011. President Barack Obama opens a six-day European tour with a quick dash through Ireland, where he will celebrate his own Irish roots and look to give a boost to a nation grappling with the fallout from its financial collapse.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Credit: AP)

President Barack 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.

And though Obama didn’t mention it in brief comments alongside the Irish prime minister shortly after arriving in Dublin, that blood link extends to the president himself. Obama was to set out later in the day for Moneygall, the tiny village in County Offaly that is the improbable ancestral homeland of Obama’s great-great-great grandfather on his Kansas-born mother’s side.

“This continues to symbolize the homeland and the extraordinary traditions of an extraordinary people,” Obama said after meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on the first stop of a six-day, four-country Europe tour.

“The friendship and the bonds between the United States and Ireland could not be stronger,” Obama said. “Obviously, it is not just a matter of strategic interest. It’s not just a matter of foreign policy. For the United States, Ireland carries a blood link with it.”

The president, who has struggled very publicly in recent days with his own role trying to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, also said during his visit with Kenny “how inspired we have been by the progress that’s been made in Northern Ireland. It speaks to the possibilities of peace, and people in longstanding struggles being able to reimagine their relationships.”

Obama spoke of the queen’s recent visit of reconciliation and said it “sends a signal not just in England, not just here in Ireland, but around the world. It sends what Bobby Kennedy once called a ‘ripple of hope’ that may manifest itself in a whole range of ways.”

Kenny said the Irish people had been awaiting the president’s visit and his pilgrimage to Moneygall. “Their excitement is palpable,” he said.

As the story goes, Falmouth Kearney, a shoemaker, left Moneygall for the United States in 1850 at the height of Ireland’s Great Famine. Obama’s roots in the town were discovered during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Residents in the village of about 350 some 80 miles southwest of Dublin have been eagerly anticipating Obama’s arrival, applying fresh coats of paint to their homes, patching up the sidewalks and hurriedly building a coffee shop called — what else? — Obama Cafe.



White House aides say the president shares their excitement and may even raise a pint at a local pub and connect with a few distant relatives.

First, though, after traveling overnight from Washington aboard Air Force One, the president and first lady Michelle Obama met Ireland’s President Mary McAleese at her official residence, and Obama participated in a tree planting ceremony. He tossed shovels of dirt at the base of a young oak as children rang a peace bell marking the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday accord, the historic agreement that put Northern Ireland on the road to peace. Nearby stood trees planted in past visits by then-presidents Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy, and one planted just last week by the queen of England during her visit here.

Obama then headed into his meeting with Kenny, and he was to visit with U.S. embassy staff before his travel to Moneygall, where excited residents waited to cheer their connection to the U.S. president.

“It’s certainly quite likely that in a town of that size that is so deeply rooted in that part of Ireland that there are people who share those ties,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

Obama was to wrap up his trip here with an open-air speech at College Green, the same spot in the center of Dublin where President Bill Clinton drew a massive crowd for a speech during his 1995 trip to Ireland.

Obama’s remarks will be part of a larger rally that includes musical performances and appearances by popular Irish actors and athletes. In keeping with the festive mood, Obama aides said the president’s speech would not be political, instead focusing on the deep ties that bind the U.S. and Ireland.

“It’s also a chance to talk about the enormous affinity, frankly, that the American people have for Ireland that’s rooted in part in the huge population of Irish-Americans here,” Rhodes told reporters before the president left Washington.

Obama arrived just days after Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II visited the Emerald Isle, the first trip to Ireland by a British monarch in about 100 years.

The back-to-back visits have given the Irish a much-needed reason to celebrate as they struggle to climb out of the financial hole created by the collapse of the country’s banks and housing market.

Gripped by debt, Ireland was forced to take a bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund in November that could total $100 billion. The rescue package came with stringent conditions that will lead the Irish to slash 25,000 jobs from the state payroll, leaving many in this country of 4.5 million with deep uncertainty about their financial future.

Heather Conley, a Europe expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said she hopes Obama’s visit includes “a moment of reflection to see the personal impact and toll” the economic crisis has levied on Ireland and other countries in the region.

After spending the night in Dublin, Obama heads to London for a two-day state visit at the invitation of the queen. He’ll then travel to Deauville, France, to meet with the heads of leading industrial nations, before ending his Europe trip with a visit to Poland, a strategically important Central European ally.

An overarching theme of Obama’s trip — his eighth to Europe since taking office — will be to reassure the region that it still has a central role in U.S. foreign policy, even though Obama has put a premium on boosting U.S. relations with Asia and emerging markets elsewhere in the world.

The president is expected to emphasize the need for the U.S. and Europe to be in lockstep against the backdrop of sweeping unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, not only in the NATO-led bombing campaign in Libya, but also as financial backers for countries in the region, like Tunisia and Egypt, that are pressing forward with democratic transitions.

Associated Press writers Nancy Benac and Shawn Pogatchnik contributed to this report.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>