Canon leads Obama back to Irish roots

25 May 2011

By Gregg Ryan, Ireland Correspondent

CANON Stephen Neill, whose research led to President Obama’s visit to the Irish village of Money­gall, in County Offaly, on Monday, said that the whole experience had led to a reawakening of community spirit.

Canon Neill, the Rector of the Cloughjordan Union of parishes, had discovered the links between the President and the Kearney family in the records of Temple­harry Church in 2007. The President’s visit “was a very personal event. The President was very relaxed, and walked the length of the village, meeting the people. The secret-servicemen I spoke to said this was unprecedented for President Obama. I showed him the parish records, and he had obviously done research himself, as he was very familiar with the Kearny story and genealogy.

“It was all very relaxing, and although beforehand I was a little nervous, the Obamas put me at ease; they are very tactile, and I got a big hug from Michelle,” he said.

“I think the legacy of the event will be to promote tourism, inward in­vest­ment, and a build-up of com­mu­nity. It distracted people from their economic woes; it was a redis­covery of community spirit which could be a template for others to follow.”

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