Obama: 'Ireland, your best days are still ahead'




US president Barack Obama told Ireland he was home tonight in an electrifying open-air address topped off with his world-famous motto.

The College Green speech in Dublin in front of 25,000 people was rounded off with his campaign rallying cry translated into Irish – “Is feidir linn... yes, we can”.

After seeing his ancestral roots first-hand, President Obama arrived in Dublin with an inspirational message for Irish people to believe.

“Never has a nation so small inspired so much in another,” he said.

The president said: “This little country that inspired the biggest things, your best days are still ahead.

“All the dreams and triumphs in America and Ireland alike are still to come and Ireland, if anyone ever says otherwise, if anybody ever tells you your problems are too big, your challenges are too great, that we can’t do something, that we shouldn’t even try... think about all that we’ve done together.

“Remember that whatever hardships that winter may bring, springtime is always just around the corner.

“And if they keep on arguing with you, just respond with the simple creed ”Is feidir linn – yes, we can. For all you have contributed to the character of the United States of America and the spirit of the world. And may God bless the eternal friendship between our two nations.“

In a 10-hour whistlestop tour, Mr Obama toasted his homecoming in the village of Moneygall, Co Offaly, with a pint of Guinness beside distant cousins.

He posed for photographs with his Michelle, stayed an hour longer than had been expected greeting well-wishers, and led the way in the bar-room banter - offering to pay for pints and praising the bar staff and Guinness.

President Obama, who has Irish-American and Kenyan roots, checked first-hand his lineage from the Moneygall area when he saw Anglican church records dating back to 1850. His great-great-great-grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, the 19-year-old son of a shoemaker, left that year for America.

Mr Obama, who was forced to cut short the trip to Ireland and head to the UK tonight amid fears that volcanic ash would ground Air Force One, followed in the footsteps of presidents John F Kennedy and Bill Clinton with the open-air address.

“My name is Barack Obama, of the Moneygall Obamas, and I’ve come home to find the apostrophe we lost somewhere along the way,” he said at College Green.

And he won more adoring fans by descending into the crowds to shake hands, hug and chat.

At one stage the charismatic leader picked a mobile phone from well-wisher Jessica Walls and spoke for a few seconds with her mother Glynis.

The president recalled the pain of the recession, emigration, the Famine, the Troubles, “when brother fought against brother”, and then the pursuit of peace as he described Ireland as a spectacular country.

He also praised Ireland’s role on the world stage in the fight against hunger.

“Yours is a history frequently marked by the greatest of trials and the deepest of sorrow,” he said. “Yours is also a history of proud and defiant endurance, of a nation that kept alive the flame of knowledge in dark ages that overcame occupation and outlived fallow fields, that tramped over its troubles – of a resilient people that beat all the odds.”

He had huge praise for all those involved in the success of the peace process and said the elections earlier this month were a mark of how far politics has moved on.

“It’s not because the world has forgotten. It’s because this once-unlikely dream has become that most extraordinary thing of things: it has become real. A dream has turned to reality because of the work of this nation,” he said.

“In dreams begin responsibility and embracing that responsibility, working towards it, overcoming the cynics and the naysayers, and those who say you can’t - that’s what makes dreams real.”

Among the leading political figures to meet the president were Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

“America will stand by you always in your pursuit of peace,” he said.

In a 24-minute address from behind bullet-proof screens, the president told the College Green crowd: “An American doesn’t really require Irish blood to understand that ours is a proud, enduring centuries-old relationship.

“That we are bound by history and friendship and shared values, and that’s why I come here today as the American president to reaffirm those bonds of affection.”

The president and first lady began their short visit to Ireland with a courtesy call to Irish president Mary McAleese and her husband Martin at her residence Aras an Uachtarain.

He also held talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who presented Mr Obama with a hurley and collection of myths and legends of his birthplace, Hawaii.

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