herald

Thursday 17 August 2017

'Obama wants to visit Ireland soon', says cousin Henry

President Barack Obama visits the Dubliner, an Irish pub in Washington, D.C., with his Irish cousin, Henry Healy, center, and Ollie Hayes, a pub owner in Moneygall, Ireland, on St. Patrick's Day, Saturday, March 17, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama visits the Dubliner, an Irish pub in Washington, D.C., with his Irish cousin, Henry Healy, center, and Ollie Hayes, a pub owner in Moneygall, Ireland, on St. Patrick's Day, Saturday, March 17, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

US president Barack Obama has pledged to return to Ireland after his second term in office ends, his Irish relative says.

The president has told his eighth cousin, Henry Healy, from Moneygall in Co Offaly, that he wanted to revisit the country before the end of his term, or “very shortly” afterwards.

Mr Healy and his uncle, Ollie Hayes, have been invited to the White House for their fifth and final St Patrick’s Day with President Obama. They are due to fly out to Washington next Monday.

“It’s a bit of a bitter-sweet invitation,” Mr Healy told the Herald. “There will be a hole to fill next Paddy’s Day.”

Mr Hayes said that the official invitation for the trip arrived last week, but that there had been correspondence ahead of that.

He and Mr Hayes, who runs the bar bearing his name in Moneygall that was visited by Mr Obama in 2011, spoke about the president’s plans to return to our shores.

“He said that he wanted to get back to Ireland before the end of this term, which doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Either that, or he said he would visit very soon afterwards,” Mr Hayes said.

Mr Healy also spoke about the possibility of Donald Trump becoming the next US president, following the elections in November this year.

“I have absolutely no desire to have any connections whatsoever with Donald Trump,” he said.

“Hopefully, reason will prevail and he won’t become president.”

Speaking about the numerous visits that he has made to the US after discovering he was a very distant relative of Mr Obama, he remained philosophical.

“What guy can say at 31 years of age that he has been invited by the president to visit the US so many times? It’s hard to believe,” he said.

Both Mr Hayes and Mr Healy will attend a reception with the president on Tuesday. Mr Hayes said that, since Mr Obama’s visit five years ago, a lot of Americans have come to see his pub.

“We still have the €50 note that he and the first lady paid with – and the glasses they used for the Guinness,” he said. “People come to take pictures and also to take pictures with a cardboard cut-out that we have.”

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Last week, it was confirmed that the pair will be joined by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, even if no Government has been formed by then.

While Mr Kenny will travel to US capital, it emerged that the number of ministers going abroad as part of the annual promotion of Irish business, culture and tourism would be “curtailed”.

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