US ex-pats begin the celebrations

US Democrats living in Ireland who support President Barack Obama travelled from the four corners of Ireland for a celebration held in the president’s honour ahead of his visit today.

The event was organised by Democrats Abroad Ireland, the official overseas arm of the Democratic Party, and featured a special Q&A debate with international guest speakers — including authors, film-makers, political, cultural and social leaders.

It also held the Dublin premiere of a documentary film focusing on President Obama’s familial links to Ireland down through the years since the Famine, which has just been screened in Cannes.

The 90-minute film — Barack Obama’s Irish Roots — by Gabriel Murray, and producer Don McGuinness, covers the 8,000km journey from Moneygall to Hawaii via Maryland, Indiana and Kansas by President Obama’s relatives from famine-stricken Ireland

Don Mullan, author and documentary film-maker, whose many books include The Narrative of Frederick Douglass — an American Slave and his boyhood memoir The Boy Who Wanted to Fly, about a man who was an inspiration to a young Obama as he entered politics, is also a guest speaker. Douglass, American 19th century orator, writer and abolitionist, was founder of the Civil Rights Movement in America. He visited Ireland and was inspired by The Liberator Daniel O’Connell.

Chairman of Democrats Abroad Ireland, Dennis Desmond, will provide further details on President Obama’s visit here, its importance in terms of Irish-American relations, and his views on the president’s record so far during his first term in the Oval Office.

Meanwhile today, the president will pass the development site of a state-of-the-art service station named after him on the outskirts of Moneygall.

The €7m Barack Obama Plaza will consist of a one-stop fuel and food outlet which will be located on the motorway junction on the outskirts of the County Offaly village.

The name was given the go-ahead by the US Embassy.

The development will create more than 50 jobs, together with further 70–80 jobs in the development and building stages of the project, and when open will house a Supermac’s, Papa John’s Pizza, a convenience shop and other facilities.

Driven by Pat McDonagh, managing director of Supermac’s, it is scheduled to open early next year.

It is hoped that the plaza will become a key stop-over point for motorists travelling through the midlands and will contribute to the local economy by bringing tourists and visitors to the area.

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