Obama to discover ancestral roots in Ireland

US leader kicks off six-day European tour by visiting home of a distant Irish relative.

    Residents of Moneygall have been painting their houses in anticipation of Barack Obama's visit [Reuters]

    Barack Obama, the US president, has arrived in Ireland to kick off a six-day European tour, that will begin with a visit to a town home to his maternal great-great-great-grandfather.

    Residents in the village of Moneygall have been lining up to get a ticket to see the president on Monday, who has been nicknamed "O'Bama" for his stay.

    The US leader is the son of a Kenyan father and Irish-American mother, whose ancestor Falmouth Kearney was a shoemaker in the tiny village.

    As he arrived in the country on Monday, Obama said the US and Ireland shared a "blood link" because of the Irish ancestry of millions of Americans in the states.

    "This is a homecoming of sorts for president Obama," Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser, said.

    Henry Healy, Obama's 24-year-old distant cousin from Moneygall, said villagers had painted their houses in preparation for the visit.

    "Nearly every American president makes the visit to Ireland and it's very special that president Obama is actually really able to make that personal connection by coming back and being able to trace his roots and come and see the ancestral home," he told Ireland's state broadcaster.

    Obama is also due to meet Irish leaders and deliver a speech in the centre of Dublin, the capital, that will celebrate Irish culture.

    He is holding talks with Mary McAleese, the Irish president, and Enda Kenny, the prime minister, during his 24-hour stay.

    The US leader is due to travel from Ireland to England and then onto France for the G8 conference, before concluding his trip in Poland.

    Robert Fisk, foreign correspondent for Britain's Independent newspaper, told Al Jazeera that Britain's prime minister David Cameron was likely to focus on Libya in his discussions with Obama later in the week.

    "Everyday now we have very handsome British squadron leaders announcing new massive victories for NATO ... but the war goes on," he said.

    "And a lot of people in Europe are beginning ask 'what is NATO for?' And they're also asking this in the Arab world."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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