Obama in Ireland

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Lisa Mullins: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is The World. President Barack Obama raised a pint of Guinness and met the locals today in Moneygall. Moneygall is the village in County Offaly in central Ireland. It's where Obama's great-great-great-grandfather lived before he came to American in the 1850s. The president has lots of other things on his agenda for the trip to Ireland and three other European countries, but today's highlight was his trip to Moneygall, where he soaked up the town's hospitality.

[crowds cheering]

Crowds of folks there braving the rain, lining the streets. Reporter Eimear Ni Bhraonain was one of them. She was squeezed in among the throngs of people just trying to catch a glimpse of the president and first lady.

Eimear Ni Bhraonain: Well, when the president arrived to Moneygall they're on their feet, they were so delighted that the moment had finally that president Barack Obama, the most powerful man in the world, that he had taken so much time out, not just a quick whiz by in an armored car, but he actually got out of that car and walked through the main street in Moneygall just as he said he would. And many of the people, I'd say his security teams were having a nightmare because he actually spent a lot of time hugging and kissing the people in the crowds that stood out for hours waiting for him. One of those women was a friend of mine, Moira Shepherd. She hugged him tightly and she said that he was so lovely to her, and that Michelle also did the same. And at the moment I'm standing in Billy Hayes' t-shirt shop in Moneygall. He's selling the Barack Obama t-shirts and commemorative gear. And Billy was actually inside in the inner circle in Ollie Hayes' pub, and he just confirmed for me a few moments ago that Mr. Obama actually finished every drop of Guinness, isn't that right, Billy?

Billy Hayes: The whole thing.

Bhraonain: The whole thing, he says. So he really enjoyed it, and that Michelle learned how to pour a pint as well, so isn't that something else?

Mullins: That is something else. I wonder if Billy Hayes, the proprietor there at the t-shirt shop, is he available for a quick sec?

Bhraonain: Yeah, Billy Hayes, just one second here now.

Mullins: Thanks a lot.

Bhraonain: It's Lisa.

Hayes: Hi, Lisa, how you doing?

Mullins: Hi, Billy, very well, but I guess you're doing really, really well on a day like today.

Hayes: Oh, I think for the first time in my whole life I'm actually kind of nearly stuck for words. I was invited by the embassy to put some of the t-shirts on for them and just for the people around him, and I was lucky enough to be invited into the pub at the same time as well.

Mullins: Tell us more. What was it like when you were in the pub?
Hayes: Well, the television we turned off about five minutes before he came, so we didn't know how near he was, how far, and he just walked in the door. And everyone just clapped, and he just straight away into shaking everyone's hands. Such a glow off him and inspirational to everyone, not only to see him in the pub, but everyone was on the street that got to see him as well, it was incredible.

Mullins: Did you shake the president's hand?

Hayes: I did. I shook the president's hand and I got a kiss on the cheek from Mrs. Obama as well, and just oh, hard to describe.

Mullins: And what's your best-selling t-shirt?

Hayes: The t-shirt with the heart on it that said Moneygall 2011. We are officially sold out of them her in Moneygall and we'll have to start printing again on Monday.

Mullins: That's great, thank you very much, really nice to talk to you. Could you put Eimear back on?

Hayes: All the best.

Mullins: Thanks, you too. The president clearly made a lot of friends there in Moneygall. Did he have any kind of political agenda or was this just a real crowd pleaser?

Bhraonain: Well, in fairness I think any American president who would discover they had Irish roots would be a fool not to come to Ireland, because the Irish-American lobby is so powerful. And we all know that, but he came across as very genuine. The people loved him. They reached out and he reached back. The real feeling here from the people on the ground is this is a victory for the little people, for a small village in Ireland that managed to get his attention. And when Barack Obama was a little known senator in 2007, and Moneygall was a place where people barely stopped; now, everybody knows that Barack Obama and Moneygall are synonymous.

Mullins: Excellent. Thank you so much, Eimear Bhraonain, who writes for Irelands' independent newspaper, speaking to us from Moneygall, Ireland after the president and his wife have departed today. Thank you, again.

Eimear: No problem.