US President Barack Obama will visit Ireland in the Spring of next year and a campaign to bring him to Kilkenny has started. His itinerary has not been finalised and officials are reluctant to reveal any details because of the media scrum it will create. It is certain that he will visit Dublin where he will stay overnight. It is expected that he will visit one other location in the Republic of Ireland as part of the trip but no decision has yet been made on where.
It will form part of his strategy to be re-elected to the Oval Office in October 2012 and he will use the state visit to influence the huge Irish-American vote there. It will provide Mr Obama with a perfect opportunity to highlight his Irish ancestry and play to the huge Gaelic Diaspora. He is also expected to announce details of a major financial investment in the country and will copper fasten America’s position as the largest overseas investor in Ireland.
Hopes are high that he will visit Kilkenny in February or March 2012 because of the strong links that exist between Mr Obama and the city. Members of the US diplomatic corps in Ireland and officials from a number of US intelligence and security agencies have been in Kilkenny city in recent weeks on a reconnaissance mission.
Mayor of Kilkenny, Martin Brett has sent an official invitation to the White House inviting President Obama and his wife Michelle to the medieval city. He has also sent an invitation to US Ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney, along with a letter seeking an urgent meeting with Mr Rooney to plead Kilkenny’s case to be part of the official tour by the world’s most powerful man.
The only homestead still standing, associated with Mr Obama is in Kilkenny city. It is now the Heritage Council but was home to his great, great, great grand uncle, Bishop John Kearney. And there is a tomb in St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny which holds the remains of Bishop Kearney.
Mr Obama’s closest living Irish relative, Jane de Montmorency Wright who lives between Bennettsbridge and Thomastown has already told the Kilkenny People that she would be delighted to see her long lost cousin come to the city and/or county.
Kilkenny will face fierce opposition from the other Irish centre with serious claims to Mr Obama, Moneygall, Co Offaly where the Kearney family originated.
Mayor Brett has said that unless Kilkenny moves with a united front to bring Obama to Kilkenny, the city could lose out.
“We need to send out the message that we want Mr Obama in Kilkenny because it is his ancestral home and the place in Ireland most closely associated with him,” he said.
Fr John Duggan, formerly of St Kieran’s College, Kilkenny and now retired in Massachusetts is a long time personal friend of Mr Rooney and the Mayor will also be writing to him to ask him to use his good offices to encourage Mr Rooney to do all in his power to have Kilkenny included in the president’s itinerary.
Mr Brett said it was not impossible that Mr Obama could visit both Moneygall and Kilkenny city and he said he would accommodate the Offaly clan in any way possible in Kilkenny.
A visit by a US president, would bring unprecedented media coverage to the city and open up Kilkenny to a potential world wide audience of hundreds of millions of people.
“We have an opportunity here to put Kilkenny on the world wide stage and to showcase our wonderful city and county to the world so we should seize the opportunity and leave no stone unturned to secure a visit by Mr and Mrs Obama,” Mayor Martin Brett said.