23 May 2011
As part of his official visit to Ireland President Obama will visit the small town of Moneygall where his great-great-great-great-grandfather was a shoemaker. His son, Falmouth Kearney, left Ireland for New York in 1850.
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If the residents of Moneygall need any advice on how best to welcome an American president, they might turn to their counterparts in another small Irish village, Ballyporeen, which, in 1984 played host to the great grandson of a local man who emigrated to the US, President Ronald Reagan.
President Obama is following in the footsteps, not just of President Reagan, but also of a wave of presidents dating back to John F Kennedy. President Kennedy paid the first visit of a serving US president to Ireland in 1963, a four day trip which saw huge crowds turning out to greet him as he toured the country and visited his ancestral home. He was followed in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, whose family history was traced to County Kildare.
President Bill Clinton made three visits to the island of Ireland during his two terms in office. His Irish legacy though resides in the crucial part he played in the Northern Ireland peace process, although he too can trace ancestry here, to County Fermanagh.
President George W Bush is thought to have Irish roots as well, in County Down. Like President Clinton, his visits were aimed at consolidating the Northern Ireland peace process.
And now the people of Moneygall prepare to welcome their US president; all thanks to a son of the village who left for New York in 1850, at the tender age of nineteen.
The links between Ireland and America are forged on countless such stories, there are thirty six million Americans who claim Irish ancestry, according to US Census figures. Every year, thousands of Americans travel here to reconnect with their family heritage.
Later on, in Moneygall, their president will do exactly the same.
Ruth McDonald, BBC News
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people who have had the experience that they are about to have
- played host to
- following in the footsteps (of)
doing what others have done before
- a wave of
a large number of
- his ancestral home
the place where a distant but direct relative came from
- was traced to
was researched and found to come from
an achievement that will be remembered and will have an impact for a long time
- the tender age of
at an age when you are young and without much experience of the world
- forged on
established and made strong by