From Queen to US President: Security operation turns attention to Obama visit

From Queen to US President: Security operation turns attention to Obama visit

There is little pause for the security forces this weekend as the successful Queen's visit ends, and the trip of US President Barack Obama comes into view.

Obama will follow in the steps of some of his predecessors when he touches down in Ireland on Monday.

Security is expected to be tight during Mr Obama’s public events in the village of Moneygall, Co Offaly, and again at an open air rally in Dublin city centre.

Access will not be restricted to the free concert and presidential address on College Green but those attending will be screened.

Mr Obama will speak to a crowd of thousands at the same College Green location where President Bill Clinton wooed onlookers in 1995. It will be attended by the US President’s wife Michelle and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The set-piece occasion will follow a whistle-stop trip to his ancestral home of Moneygall, where up to 2,000 people are expected to descend upon the village for his 45-minute drop-in.

Unlike the Queen’s tour, which concluded on Friday, it is not a state visit and will not carry the same degree of ceremony. But it recognises the special ties which many Irish people have with America.

Millions of people in the US claim Irish heritage, most dominantly in cities such as Boston, New York and the President’s political powerbase in Chicago.

At the start of their visit, Mr Obama and the first lady will call on Irish President Mary McAleese at her Dublin residence, the Aras an Uachtarain, and will then meet Mr Kenny.

Mr Obama will be taken by helicopter to Moneygall. Residents queued for up to six hours on Thursday to secure a “golden ticket” to see his homecoming, which is expected to involve a trip down the Main Street and could include a visit to local pub Ollie Hayes.

Obama fever is sweeping the village, with US secret service agents moving in as locals paint their houses and repair the footpaths.

Mr Obama’s great-great-great-great-grandfather was a shoemaker in Moneygall and his son, Falmouth Kearney, left for New York in 1850.

Meanwhile, the Offaly Independent has cast away tradition and temporarily changed its 119-year-old name to mark the historic visit.

The Obama Independent went on sale for a one-off special souvenir edition on Friday.

Editor Tadhg Carey said the paper, owned by Celtic Media Group, wanted to celebrate a unique occasion in Offaly’s history in a novel manner.

Local entrepreneur Billy Hayes is also bucking the recession with a range of commemorative T-shirts he designed for the occasion.

He revealed that a batch of Obama Moneygall 2011 T-shirts have been ordered by the US Embassy in Dublin for officials who will not have time to shop during his visit.

Returning to Dublin, Mr Obama will address the College Green audience at the end of entertainment involving many well-known Irish artists. Security gates will open at 2pm to facilitate the large number of people likely to attend.

Up to 10 venues were examined for the event, including O’Connell Street, the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Croke Park and the Phoenix Park, but the others were ruled out for security or traffic reasons.

Mr Clinton addressed a crowd of thousands there in 1995. Mr Obama, who has Irish, Kenyan and American roots, is expected to highlight the strong ties between Ireland and the US.

Large screens will be in place on College Green to enable all present to see those on stage.

The President will fly out of Dublin on Tuesday to start a state visit to the UK.

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