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Irish Voice News
Offaly Celebrates Historic Win
November 12, 2008
By April Drew
BEFORE Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States last Tuesday the celebrations were well underway in Moneygall, Co. Offaly, home to the president-elect’s Irish ancestors.
By 7 p.m. Irish time (3 p.m. in New York), locals from the small village of Moneygall (population 299) gathered at Ollie’s bar in the village to watch history unfold, as one of their own was about to be elected the next leader of the U.S.
Ollie Hayes, proprietor of Ollie’s bar, told the Irish Voice that the atmosphere on Tuesday in his bar was just “out of this world.”
According to Hayes, there was a sea of American flags floating high above people’s heads every time Obama’s name was even mentioned on the television.
The small village was bombarded by media from around the world who camped outside Ollie’s in the village to capture the Irish smiles and celebrations as it was becoming apparent that Offaly’s long lost son was soon be king of the world.
“We had such a great night of celebrations and sure we’re still celebrating,” said Hayes.
Gerry Corrigan, member of Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys, who wrote the popular song “There’s No One As Irish As Barack O’Bama,” told the Irish Voice that the atmosphere in Moneygall last Tuesday evening was sparking with electricity.
“Everyone was just so excited,” said Corrigan, comparing the buzz to that of a Munster sports final game.
“People were glued to the television and when results started coming in people were shouting and some even crying.”
Corrigan, who performed the song with his brothers Brian and Donny at Ollie’s on Tuesday and then some, said they got the most amazing applause when they sang their newest song, “When President Obama Comes Home to Moneygall.”
“I got very emotional, I never experienced anything like it. It was like the birth of a child, just a really warm great feeling. So many people expecting a bit of change,” recalls Corrigan, who hails from Limerick.
At 4 a.m. Irish time on Wednesday, (11 p.m. New York time) the normally quiet village of Moneygall was still alive with enthusiasm and excitement as Obama was officially announced the 44th president of the U.S.
Henry Healy, a ninth cousin of the president-elect, said after the festivities finished up at Ollie’s he headed home and proceeded to watch the rest of the results pour in on his television set.
Like the millions awake in the United States, Healy’s eyes remained glued to the box and he was overjoyed at 4 a.m. when it was announced to the world that his far distant cousin was the winner.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it before,” said Healy, an accountant for a plumbing company.
Healy, the most famous man in Ireland the day following the announcement, got a little over two hours sleep that night and was up again the next morning doing interviews.
On his connection to the Obama, Healy said, “I still see Barack Obama as this guy on the television that I am some way related to but have still yet to meet.”
Healy and Obama’s connection go back as far as 1760.
“Sarah Healy married a Joseph Kearny. They are great grandparents of Falmouth Kearney, who emigrated the states,” explained Healy.
Cannon Stephen Neill, the man largely responsible for uncovering Obama’s Irish roots, said the celebrations in Moneygall were fantastic.
“It was so fantastic to be on the edge of something new and different. It’s all very exciting,” said Neill.
“I suppose it’s great to be part of something so big for a small village in rural Ireland, to be in the center of such a huge world event.”
Neill, 39, said Obama’s invitation to visit his relations in Moneygall is greatly extended and although he realizes that Obama will have more pressing issues to deal with when he takes up office, he hopes that someday he will find the time to visit Ireland.
“We would look forward to welcoming him to Moneygall and give him a real Irish welcome. I think it would be a value to him to learn about his Irish roots also.”
Plans are already underway at Ollie’s bar and in the village to host another big celebration the night Obama is officially inaugurated as president.
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