(Dublin, Ireland) Even before President Obama touched down in Ireland Monday, the country was abuzz with talk over his visit and the country's ancestral connections to the president that go back many generations.
Now that he's here, he is expressing a similar sentiment. "The friendship and the bond between the United States and Ireland could not be stronger," he said after meeting with Enda Kenny, the country's Taoiseach; the Head of the Irish Government.
"Obviously it is not just a matter of strategic interest, it's not just a matter of foreign policy; for the United States, Ireland carries a blood link with us," The president continued.
It is his own bloodline that the president will explore in a visit to the tiny town of Moneygall, where his great, great, great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, once lived. Kearney was the son of a shoemaker who, in 1850 at the age of 19, immigrated to the United States and began a new arm of the family tree that eventually reached Stanley Ann Dunham, President Obama's mother.
While in Moneygall, the president is expected to visit one of the only two pubs in town, Ollie Hayes, where he may sip a Guinness or perhaps a Smithwick's on tap. One Dublin cab driver told Fox, "He'll have to go into both of them because if he doesn't, he'll put one out of business." It turns out that the second pub is also owned by the Hayes family, so there should be no hard feelings there.
The larger Hayes is expected to be where the president will stop. The owners are quite proud of the town's connection to the president, displaying a multitude of memorabilia dedicated to him, including a large bust.
While in town, the president may just bump into Irish TV's latest tourism promoter, a man who claims to be the president's distant cousin, Henry Healy. While White House officials say they cannot guarantee that all of those in Moneygall who proclaim to be related to the president are indeed correct, they admit family ties surely may bind some to the commander in chief.
"[I]t's certainly quite likely that in a town of that size that is so deeply rooted in that part of Ireland that there are people who share those ties. I couldn't say with certainty who -- the nature of those relations, but we certainly expect it to be a robust topic of discussion," said one aide.
The president's trip to Ireland is mostly informal, though he did take part in the requisite meetings with the leaders in the Irish government.
Taoiseach Kenny told the press after his meeting with the president, "I can say that the Irish people have been waiting for this visit. Their excitement is palpable."