Obama fever builds in Moneygall

Obama fever builds in Moneygall

Residents in US President Barack Obama's ancestral home in Ireland queued for up to six hours to secure a "golden ticket" to see his homecoming today.

Two thousand people will be part of the president's sweeping visit to the rural village of Moneygall, Co Offaly, on Monday.

Henry Healy, a distant relative of Mr Obama, said everybody was excited that locals will be giving Ireland's world famous welcome.

"I liken this to his presidential campaign, when he was the underdog," said Mr Healy.

"Then we were the underdogs to secure this visit and both of us are the winners.

"He said he wanted to come to Moneygall and it's the people of Moneygall he is going to meet.

"Everybody has been extremely patient. They've been queuing five to six hours for their golden tickets."

Mr Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are due to touch down in Dublin on Monday morning and start their trip with the obligatory meeting with the heads of State and Government.

It is speculated the couple will fly by helicopter to the midlands for an hour, which could include a visit to the 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 Healy said even the surrounding green pastures have been prepared for the president's landing.

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

Although generations have passed, blood ties to the president remain in the guise of Mr Healy.

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

The Obama Independent will go on sale for a one-off special souvenir edition to be published tomorrow.

Offaly Independent 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.

"We would envisage that this edition will be kept as a souvenir copy and will help to commemorate a famous day in the county's history," he added.

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.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend a free rally in College Green on Monday evening, before the couple depart on Tuesday.

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