DUBLIN, Ireland – He downed a pint of Guinness with a distant cousin and checked out centuries-old parish records tracing his family to Ireland. From the tiny village of Moneygall to a huge, cheering crowd in Dublin, President Barack Obama opened his four-nation trip through Europe on Monday with an unlikely homecoming far removed from the grinding politics of Washington and the world.
“My name is Barack Obama, of the Moneygall Obamas, and I’ve come home to find the apostrophe we lost somewhere along the way,” a clearly tickled Obama – make that O’Bama – told the overflow throng at Dublin’s College Green with his wife, Michelle, right by him. “We feel very much at home.”
Obama’s feel-good indulgence in Ireland came at the start of a four-country, six-day trip that is bound to get into stickier matters as he goes. The only hitch on day one was the threat of a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland that led the president to leave Ireland without even a night’s stay and land in England on Monday night.
His high point in Ireland was a helicopter jaunt to Moneygall, population 350 give or take it, where the president’s great-great-great-grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, was born and where thousands congregated to welcome the United States’ first black president home. Obama met there with his nearest Irish relative, 26-year-old accountant Henry Healy, and they stopped in at Ollie’s Bar for a Guinness.
It was a moment and a pint to savor. To the approval of the pub crowd and people all across Ireland watching on television, Obama downed the full pint in four slurps and came away with a foam mustache.
After getting to London a night earlier than scheduled and overnighting at the U.S. ambassador’s residence, the Obamas will enjoy the rarified pomp of a state dinner and sleepover at Buckingham Palace, with Queen Elizabeth II as host.