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.”