Moneygall throws party for Obama

The Offaly village of Moneygall - home to Barack Obama’s ancestors - threw a celebration party tonight in a local pub in anticipation of his victory in the US presidential election.

Before last year, the most famous descendant of Moneygall, Co Offaly, was Papillon, the horse that won the Aintree Grand National in 2000.

But after a Church of Ireland vicar uncovered records in the home of an elderly parishioner which tied the political leader to the village, it has been basking in the spotlight.

Canon Stephen Neill, 39, of the 200-year-old Templeharry church, in nearby Cloughjordan, who unearthed the connection, said Senator Obama was now genuinely regarded as a son of Moneygall.

“The villagers have a real concrete link with history in the making and they feel very proud, very privileged and very excited,” he said.

Mr Obama himself acknowledged his Irish roots last St Patrick’s Day when he promised to visit his ancestral home and sip a pint of the stout.

His third great-grandfather Fulmuth Kearney, the son of a wealthy shoemaker, left the village for New York in the 1850s and the rest of his family followed him.

Nothing remains of his homestead and surrounding field, known as Kearney’s Gardens, which was recently divided into housing sites by Offaly County Council.

But blood ties remain, according to Henry Healy, 24, who keeps the accounts for a local plumber and who has traced his own family tree to the Kearney-Obama dynasty.

He organised the village celebrations at Ollie Hayes’ pub.

“The village itself hasn’t seen attention like this ever and probably never will again,” he said.

Posters were donated by the Democrats, Stars and Stripes bought in from the US Embassy’s supplier in Dublin and, of course, extra kegs of Guinness ordered.

Irish set dancers started the party before rock band Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys, who have been courting notoriety for their song There’s No One as Irish as Barack Obama, took to the stage.

Despite hours to go before a final result, they confidently announced the “world premiere” of their new track: When President Obama Comes Home to Moneygall.

The band have already been invited to an inauguration party planned by Irish-American Democrats for January.

There is no filling station or visitor accommodation in Moneygall.

Normally, the main activity is the passing traffic on the dusty N7 road between Dublin and Limerick which bisects the village.

However, a bypass expected to be completed in 2010 will take even that away.

“Maybe he’ll open the new road for us,” said pub owner Ollie Hayes, fully confident of a visit from Mr Obama, as US President.

Matthew Douglas, 50, who works in the accounts department of a courier company in nearby Roscrea, played gaelic football on the field where Fulmuth Kearney grew up.

“Little did we know that years down the track there would be a future President of America whose relations grew up in that field,” he said.

Having a pint, while watching the election unfold on the 24-hour television news channel, he admitted to being initially cynical about the Obama link to his home village.

“This was a black person in America who was supposed to have an ancestral home in Moneygall,” he said.

“So I thought to myself – this is a long shot. But since we learned it is actually the case there has been a groundswell of enthusiasm for him.

“Until now US presidential candidates were just names, but now we have an idea about who we’re talking about.”

Healy said he would love for his famous distant cousin to fulfil his vow to visit, but insisted things would eventually return to normal in Moneygall.

“It won’t change the village, we’ll always be the same people, – it won’t go to our heads,” he said.

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