This is Barack Obama's eighth cousin, Henry Healy's, account of the historic visit to Moneygall.
Henry the Eighth Cousin
IRELAND will never forget the day Barack Obama came home to Moneygall.
Moments before I stepped onto Main Street, I watched Barack Obama’s Marine One land in our local GAA field on the TV inside Ollie Hayes’ pub. That was my cue to leave but I was a bag of nerves. The cheers from the 2,500 people who had been waiting in the wind, rain and intermittent sunshine for Barack Obama were deafening as I emerged.
I was full of pride for Moneygall at that moment and my anxiety disappeared. We had achieved the impossible.
Four years ago, Barack Obama was barely known in Ireland. It didn’t stop me becoming fascinated with this story. When I started asking questions about my own family tree, my uncle John disclosed how we were also connected to the Kearneys. I eventually found out that I am an eighth cousin of the US President.
My sixth great-grandaunt, Sarah Healy, who married a Kearney, is also President Barack Obama’s sixth great-grandmother. I was walking on air as I made my way to the Cloughjordan Road where Mr Obama and First Lady Michelle were about to make their entrance.
Michelle Obama was the first person to greet me and she immediately put me at ease by extending a warm hand and saying, “Henry, I believe you are family”. She also remarked on how I had the same height and build as the president. Moments later, Barack Obama, shook my hand and called me ‘Henry The Eighth’, to my amusement as many in Moneygall had already given me this nickname.
There are so many high points from May 23 but an unforgettable family moment was when my three-year-old nephew, Robert, ran over to me and said “Thank you Henry for bringing the president to see me”. Barack Obama’s visit to Moneygall is special. It symbolises everything that his “is féidir linn” attitude represents.
The community spirit in our village is powerful today. Everyone pulled together to welcome the US President. We were able to step outside our problems because Barack Obama’s visit reminded us of what is important. He jolted us back to life.
Instead of worrying about money and jobs, we spent much of our time talking to our neighbours at no cost at all. The visit of the US president to his ancestral home brought our community together again and raised our nation’s hopes for the future.
- Henry Healy, May 31 2011