OPINION (AN COLÚN): Remembering a historic day at Moneygall

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A few weeks ago I hiked the Rock of Loyer loop which starts at Moneygall and rises through the pastures above the village. It is a lovely walk with stunning views of rolling plains and hills beyond.
At the start of the walk, I passed the red facade of Ollie Hayes’ pub on the high street. The pub sign is a picture of President Obama drinking a pint of Guinness.
But I had thought of Obama before seeing the Hayes sign. It’s hard not to think of the president every time you visit the village.
Eleven years have passed since those heady days during Obama’s visit on May 23, 2011. Today, the village looks good, with a strong community ethos; although I would like it to emulate the example of towns and villages in the west of Ireland and have a more adventurous color scheme for its house fronts.
After all the excitement and hype of the President’s visit in 2011, the Moneygall Development Association continues to tap into that excitement and energy and has been behind many great projects in the years since followed, including a playground, the Rock of Loyer loop, and a community. garden. “The community garden is another fantastic undertaking,” said Henry Healy. “People work hard in this garden and get a lot of enjoyment out of it. It also features a long polytunnel.

Obama and his wife Michelle received a very warm welcome in the village, the home of the president’s great-great-great-grandfather, Falmouth Kearney.
In addition to visiting Obama’s ancestral home, the couple spent time greeting some of the hundreds of people who had gathered to greet them.
While in the village, the president visited a small shop and enjoyed a pint of Guinness at Ollie Hayes’ pub. He was pictured with distant cousins ​​including Henry Healy. Barack and Michelle spent a lot of time with the Main Street crowd.
The presidential visit was the culmination of the events of an extraordinary week. In the space of just seven days Queen Elizabeth arrived for a four-day state visit, the state funeral of former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald took place; and the American president arrived.
Speaking to the press ahead of the visit, publican Ollie Hayes said the excitement at Moneygall was tangible. “Everyone in the community is preparing in one way or another,” he said, “to make sure we create the warmest possible welcome for the occasion. It will really be one of the proudest days of my life and I would be honored if President Obama joined us at Ollie’s Bar, where we would welcome him with a pint of Guinness to cap off his trip to his Irish roots.
Making a special delivery to Ollie’s Bar, Guinness Brewmaster Fergal Murray said: “What better way to welcome US President Barack Obama to Ireland than with a pint of Guinness at his forefather’s local pub.
The visit was widely covered in this week’s Midland Tribune. Tribune reporter Anne Ralph told readers that only two local newspapers had managed to gain full official accreditation, including the Tribune and the Offaly Express, with the Offaly base being a key factor. Anne received a press pass with the verbal warning: “Lose it and you’re out of here.” The weather for the tour was a mix of sunshine and showers. The dozens of press photographers scrambled aggressively to get a good shot. At all times the Secret Service was calling the shots – “Take two steps back now”. Front cameras; radios and pencils in the back. Do not cross the white line. When we tell you to run, do it fast. Ollie Hayes’ bar rush was an ordeal despite the demands of an orderly entrance. With the high noise levels at times, it was hard to hear in the bar. The President is strictly prohibited from consuming any food or drink other than that prepared in advance by the White House kitchen staff. However, this very important rule was broken when he sank a pint at Hayes. In the pub, Obama talked about Guinness in general and offered a €50 note saying, “The President always pays for the pint.” The presidential couple walked behind the counter for about 20 minutes and Ollie showed Michelle how to pour a pint of guinness. Anne said residents of Moneygall did not care about the high level of security as the President’s visit was “a dream come true that will be cherished for a lifetime”. Meanwhile, it was obvious that Obama was thrilled to be at Moneygall. “As he got out of the jeep,” the Tribune wrote, “he took a few seconds to look around as if to say ‘That’s it – I’ve finally arrived at Monegyall’ and he was clearly delighted with what ‘he saw.’ He also spent 20 minutes at the home of his ancestor Falmouth Kearney and chatted with current owner John Donovan.The wooden floor he was told was probably the same one his ancestor walked on, before the The harsh realities of the time (the 1850s) forced him to emigrate to America. Obama was obviously moved by the experience. Outside, he greeted the 3,000 parishioners with handshakes and hugs.

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