The President and The First Lady in Ireland
First Muhammad Ali, now Barack Obama comes to Ireland to visit his maternal great-great-great-grandfather’s home as part of his European trip. For the President, it is in Moneygall, County Offaly, Republic of Ireland. The Irish are claiming him, too.
He and Michelle openly drank. I’m sure the stuff wasn’t at all like the weak drafts served Stateside. This beer is the real deal.
The young man smiling next to President Obama is a distant eighth cousin, Henry Healy. There is definitely a resemblance. The story of his familial connection to the President is here. (The oldest cousin from the Kearney family is now 75; she is his sixth cousin Jane de Montmorency-Wright, who lives in Kilkenny. Wright is the niece of a baronet or knight. It is unclear whether she was able to meet with President Obama.)
Big difference, I think, from The Queen, who was poured some Guinness at the factory during her historic visit to Ireland last week, but she refused to drink publicly to her own health (Motormouth Prince Philip, though, looked from some sources as if he wanted to take a sip). The Queen has never been photographed or filmed eating or drinking (except perhaps, for toasting). It’s considered a diminution of her dignity. Ha. George W. Bush, in comparison, was one of those people that seemed to be a walking disaster without a speech or a manufactured line while being filmed or photographed.
I think that it would not have been possible for Obama (or O’Bama, ;D) to come to Ireland, not just because his election as president, but also without the historical examination that has been going on in Ireland regarding their connections to Africans, to the slave trade, to the Caribbean, to transported rebels and indentured servants, to their immigration and scattering during Black ’45 and the days of the Potato Famine, and so forth. (Many Famine Irish came to the U.S. on slave ships that had just returned from the New World–because of the “triangular” route of the slave trade.) It is true that when the Irish arrived on these shores, they literally took jobs and businesses away from free blacks (because they were not considered citizens while the immigrant Irish were still white) before the Civil War. It is true that the Irish draft-rioted in New York and other cities during the Civil War and killed many blacks without reason. It is true that many of their American descendants remain intractable about blacks competing with them in jobs and education and housing. However, in the home country, this attitude is beginning to change through education and connections with African Americans.
His great-great-great-grandfather, the nineteen-year-old son of an Irish Protestant (Church of Ireland) shoemaker, Falmouth Kearney, came to the United States–no, wait: survived the sea journey and the landing–during the Great Hunger.
I kept looking at the crowds in Dublin to see whether new immigrants to Ireland were represented. They include Lithuanians, Nigerians, Chinese, Poles and Czechs. Ireland is becoming diverse, but particularly there are Irish of color.
The Daily Mail is carping that African Americans are beginning to take the lead of their president and are delving into their own ancestry to find possible Irish great-greats, and to even consider about contacting their white cousins across the water, and visiting where they came from.
A leading academic recently revealed that Irish immigrants and African Americans married more than other ethnic groups in the U.S. in the 19th century.
Slave owners and poor immigrant workers are the two main groups of Irish ancestors being uncovered by African Americans looking into their past.
Irish heritage company Eneclann, who discovered Mr Obama’s Irish family, said African Americans now make up one in five of their cases from the U.S.
Eneclann’s director, Brian Donovan, said he was amazed by the numbers approaching his company at a recent genealogical conference in South Carolina.
‘People are being inspired by President Obama’s story to look into their own Irish roots,’ he said.
I have a white surname that is Scots or Scots Irish; it is possible that a white ancestor or two is in my family tree. A maternal great-grandmother’s name is a name that washed up from the Caribbean a century or two ago. A decade ago, I looked into buying tartan shawls that would reflect my particular clan name.
There is no shame in this. Nor is it a bid to become white. The shame is when people try to run and hide from family. During the agitation against slavery in Britain and its colonies, abolitionists would remind audiences about the Scots and Irish who were transported to the Caribbean for rebellion or debt, and how their descendants (black people) were their people in literal chains. While Obama and Muhammad Ali are indeed celebrities or political figures, and there may be other factors regarding why the Irish are claiming them, there are lesser-known, educated, middle-class blacks who are curious and are willing to acknowledge a connection that could indeed lead to something more.
Some of the President’s 28 Irish American relatives aren’t exactly happy about the familial connection, and they take it personally as well as politically. That’s what listening to Limbaugh and watching Faux News can do.
More Obama porn can be found at The Obama Diary, yet another WordPress blog.
The Obamas are going to England next, and will be spending a night with The Queen in Buck House. Then it is on to France for the G8 Summit, and to Poland.