Moneygall: Obama begins Europe trip with stop at ancestral Irish village


T-shirts are displayed in a shop front in Moneygall, on May 21, 2011, ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to his ancestral home.


Peter Muhly

President Barack Obama lands in Ireland Monday to begin a week-long tour of Europe. Before he jumps into issues of politics and economic turmoil, he will make his first stop in Moneygall, a small village where his ancestors hail from.

Visiting one's ancestral home is a time-honored traditional among American presidents. Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, will be visiting the village where his great-great-great-grandfather, Fulmouth Kearney, lived more than 150 years ago. Kearney, a relation on Obama's maternal side, immigrated to the United States in 1850.

Moneygall is a small, sleepy rural village that "takes less than a minute to drive through," reports TIME. It has one pub, a corner shop, a post office and a football field.

And yet, for Obama's arrival, the town of 300 has awoken and pulled out all the paint, flags and fiddlers it could muster.

"When Obama announced on St. Patrick's Day that he was coming here, he didn't just say he was coming to Ireland or Europe but that he was coming to Moneygall," bar owner Ollie Hayes proudly told TIME.

Kearney left Moneygall, a village about 48 miles from Dublin, in order to flee the Irish famine and find a better life in America. Many of Moneygall's current residents hope the one-day visit by Obama will similarly bring possibilities for prosperity, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Ireland faces a financial crisis and was forced to accept a bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Much of Obama's visit to Europe will include discussions with European leaders on how to avoid financial collapse for countries like Ireland, Greece and Portugal. The Group of 8 industrialized countries meets Wednesday in France.

Obama's trip, which will include visits to Britain, France and Poland, will also focus on America's involvement in the NATO-led air campaign in Libya, how the West can help democracy take root in the Middle East and how to end the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

The BBC reports that the security for the tour, which comes a few weeks after U.S. forces killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, will be unprecedented.