Obama reaffirms US-Irish ties during visit

US president tells crowd in Dublin that his country's relationship with Ireland is bound in history and friendship.

    Barack Obama, the US president, has reaffirmed his country's ties to Ireland, saying the centuries-old relationship is bound in history, friendship and shared values.

    Tens of thousands of people gathered to hear Obama speak in Dublin, Ireland's capital, on Monday.

    His speech followed a much-publicised visit to Moneygall, a small Irish village where an ancestor on Obama's Kansas-born mother's side once lived and worked as a shoemaker.

    "My name is Barack Obama of the Moneygall Obamas," the president told the cheering crowd of about 30,000 people in Dublin.

    Much of Obama's speech was devoted to pride at Irish contributions to American history and culture rather than overt politics.

    "There's always been a little green behind the red, white and blue," he said to cheers.

    But he also struck a serious note, marking the adversity of Ireland's history and current economic crisis.

    He held up Ireland as a model for the world by describing its move from violent divisions to what he called a lasting peace in the country.

    Obama has struggled publicly in recent days with his role trying to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

    Irish connection

    Earlier, away from Dublin, Obama and his wife Michelle visited the village of Moneygall, where Falmouth Kearney, Obama's great-great-great grandfather, lived until leaving for the US in 1850 at the height of Ireland's Great Famine.

    President Obama has found a family
    connection to Ireland [Reuters]

    Obama's roots in the Irish town were discovered during his 2008 presidential campaign and make Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and Irish-American mother, one of 37 million Americans who claim Irish ancestry.

    Thousands of people had gathered in the village, which has only about 300 residents, to see the Obamas.

    "Welcome home, Mr President," a man yelled as the Obamas reached deep into the throng to shake hands.

    Three babies were handed over a security barricade for pictures to be taken with Obama.

    Women hugged and kissed him under the watchful eye of his security detail and dozens of US flags festooned the village's one street.

    The president also sampled a pint of Guinness as part of his visit.

    Trip cut short

    The trip to Moneygall was a light-hearted one, away from the more serious issues of the president's trip - a six-day, four-country European tour.

    In Dublin he held talks with Mary McAleese, the Irish president, and Enda Kenny, the prime minister.

    His short trip to Ireland was cut shorter still as fears of disruption to air traffic due to ash from an Icelandic volcano meant Obama left Ireland for Britain on Monday night, a day ahead of schedule.

    The ash cloud from the Grimsvoetn volcano was already causing "minor delays" to some flights in Britain, authorities said on Monday.

    "Due to a recent change in the trajectory in the plume of volcanic ash, Air Force One will depart Ireland for London tonight. The schedule for tomorrow will proceed as planned," a White House official said earlier.

    After his time in England Obama is due to travel to France for the G8 conference, before concluding his trip in Poland.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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