Tuesday, March 17, 2009

There’s No One as Irish as Bárack O’Bama

During the 2008 Presidential primary season, a lot of discoveries were made regarding the heritage and ancestry of then-Senator Barack Obama. One of the discoveries was that the man who would become the first African-American president would also be an Irish-American president.

In 1850, Falmouth Kearney (Obama’s great-great-great grandfather) left the small Irish village of Moneygall in County Offaly and came to the United States. This makes President Obama 3.1% Irish.

And according to a story in Politico last week, the Irish community is eager for the new President to embrace this heritage.

The relationship is a stretch, but the Irish — both in the U.S. and abroad — have since become fixated with turning Obama into O’Bama.

"He’s as much Irish as he is Kenyan," said Irish American Democrats President Stella O’Leary. "He’s been very wrapped up in his African-American heritage. But we will welcome him with open arms."

Obviously that’s not completely true - as he is 50% Kenyan - but such facts have little resonance with his Irish brethren.

In Moneygall, there’s been a move to build an Obama exhibit near Kearney Gardens, ancestral land that officials say belonged to the Kearney family. And an Irish band known as the Corrigan Brothers has grabbed the international limelight with an infectious hit called "There’s No One as Irish as Barack Obama."

With St. Patrick’s Day fast approaching in Washington, Irish-American politicians, lobbyists and even local Irish pub owners are urging Obama to publicly embrace his Irish lineage.

"God bless Falmouth Kearney, he married into good stock. It’s been a wonderfully pleasant surprise," said American Ireland Fund President Kieran McLoughlin. "And now the main platform to showcase that [connection] occurs in about a week."

In fact, there has been several variations of the song “There’s No One as Irish as Barack Obama” to go along with the progress of his rise to the Presidency. We posted one - a traditional folk version filmed in an Irish pub - the day before the 2008 General Election.

The latest version is more Rock n’ Roll and includes an animated music video that can be found here.

With the arrival of St. Patrick’s Day, the American press has also been talking up Obama’s Irish roots.

In fact, Obama’s cousin Henry Haley was featured in an advertisement by the Irish American Democrats last year, hoping to build support for Obama in the Irish-American community before the election.

Haley even attended the group’s inaugural ball in Washington, bringing with him a letter from the people of Moneygall inviting the newly-sworn-in President to visit the village. Unfortunately he never caught a glimpse of his cousin. As he told Politico "It’s surreal to think that I share the same ancestry as the most powerful man in the world…[but] I think he’s had more important things on his mind than to contact a very distant relative in Ireland."

Yet that’s not to say that our first black President hasn’t considered the importance of his Irish heritage. Like the struggles of African-Americans, he has spoken of the struggles endured by Irish-American immigrants, and he has told the story of St. Patrick as a story of hope.

These were the words he used at a St. Patrick’s Day dinner in Scranton, PA last year:

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

No comments: