No drama Obama woos all of Moneygall

THEY call him No Drama Obama but that was before the theatrics at Moneygall.

They say he’s unsentimental but that was without Irish soil under his feet.

They’re going to have to rewrite the record.

The Barack Obama who made Moneygall his own yesterday was a man of joy, warmth and not a little mischief.

“He may meet some of the people,” a sombre White House security agent had advised in advance, in a tone that said don’t hold your breath.

The president was barely four minutes into his meet and greet with local dignitaries on Main Street when he darted across the road and thrust ready hands into the ecstatic crowd.

Michelle followed, not so much First Lady as First Friend, her hellos, what’s your names and thanks so much for comings as eagerly received as her husband’s.

The 3,000 lucky ticket-holders had been sealed into the village since early morning, background-checked, soaked, searched, soaked, corralled, soaked and soaked some more, but it mattered not a jot as their long-lost son was home.

They chanted his name, sang Olé, Olé, squeezed his outstretched hands, presented him with babies and handed him their guest tickets to sign. For 20 minutes he worked the line as security agents checked their watches, watched the approaching clouds and talked into their sleeves.

Moneygall’s Betty O’Dwyer and her two granddaughters, Abbie, 5, and Robyn, 4, had been waiting patiently all morning and were straining against the barriers to see.

“It’s a privilege and honour for Moneygall,” said Betty with a happy sigh. “It’s a moment in history the girls will remember.”

Also waiting patiently were the Donovan family, John, his wife Clodagh and their children, Philip and Rachel. They now own the ancestral home of Falmouth Kearney, Obama’s great-great-great grandfather, and the White House owes them a fortune because they’ll never be able to rent it again, the last tenant having apparently moved out after her door was knocked on day and night by people wanting to know, is this Barack Obama’s house? Mr Obama spent some time with them looking around it and then he was back across the road, thrilling the crowd with a walkabout in lashing rain that neither he, nor an impossibly elegant Michelle, seemed to notice at all.

Anne Maher was in raptures. “President Obama kissed my cheek,” declared the special needs assistant of the local primary school. “I’m never washing it again. And what’s more, I’ve a husband and he’s never touching it again.”

That was probably news to poor Jimmy Maher, chairman of the local GAA club, who was up at St Flannan’s GAA grounds-turned-helicopter landing pad, minding the president’s chopper. But no doubt he’ll understand.

Denis Duggan was keeping a closer eye on his wife, Caitriona, but he didn’t have to worry as the president was more interested in their baby son, James, who, at just seven months old, managed to hold off dissolving into tears at the fact that his nappy was long overdue changing.

“He’s tired and needs changing,” said Caitriona as her little one’s stoicism finally gave way to a healthy sob, “but we didn’t want him to miss this. I wanted him to know he was here even if he doesn’t know what’s going on now.”

Twenty minutes later it was off to Ollie Hayes bar, a pint and tributes as Henry Healy, Obama’s eighth cousin, introduced him to local genealogical genius Rev Stephen Neill and other members of the Healy, Donovan and Benn family who are all distant relations.

“Let me just say I want to thank you for this incredible welcome,” Obama told them, as he examined his family tree and posed for a new kind of family photograph. “I know the town put a lot of work into this.”

By the time his pint was finished, the expectation was that his visit was as well, but for a third time, Barack and Michelle caused merry mayhem. More hugs and handshakes, more love at first sight for the crowd, more watch-checking by the agents. “I’m weak at the knees,” declared Maureen Donnelly after a kiss from the man of the moment. “His skin is so soft. He must be using Clarins.”

Maureen wouldn’t give her age in case she might have to start acting it. “All I know is he’s taken 20 years off my age and put 20 years on my life,” she said.

Henry Healy was visibly moved as he watched the cavalcade depart. “It has been brilliant,” said the young accountant whose name the crowd chanted in appreciation for all his work in establishing the transatlantic connections that put their village on the map. “It’s great for the community, its great for Moneygall and I hope it will be good for Ireland,” he proclaimed.

As the formerly cool and unsentimental 44th president of the US left, giving one last brilliant smile and energetic wave, it was clear the visit was good for him too.

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