May 22nd, 2011
08:52 PM ET

Obama's Irish roots

By CNN’s Shawna Shepherd and Brianna Keilar


DUBLIN, Ireland (CNN) - The tiny Irish village of Moneygall has been thrust into the spotlight after genealogists revealed Barack Obama has roots there. Residents are literally rolling out the red carpet – and O’Bama t-shirts – for the U.S. president’s visit Monday.

Moneygall, population 300, will be one of his first stops on a six-day, four-country tour through Europe.

Henry Healy, one of Moneygall's many residents claiming to be a distant relative of America’s first African-American president, is hoping to hoist a beer with their favorite son.

“We knew that the president had interest in his Irish roots,” Healy tells CNN. “He expressed while he was seeking the Democratic nomination that he did want to visit the little village in Ireland and have a pint.”If the president keeps his word, then Healy’s chances aren’t too bad since there are only two pubs in town.

Situated in central Ireland between Dublin and Limerick, Moneygall has undergone a patriotic facelift. With American flags hanging in front of homes and stores, Obama might feel like he’s visiting a small town in the U.S. on the Fourth of July.

Genealogists at Ancestry.com first shed light on Obama’s Irish roots when he was campaigning for the presidency.  They traced his Irish ancestry several generations to a fellow by the name of Fulmoth Kearney, the president’s great-great-great grandfather on his mother’s side, who immigrated from Moneygall to Ohio in 1850.

Maybe it was that “luck o’ the Irish” – or perhaps support from some of the 40 million Irish-Americans – that helped Obama win the presidential nomination.

“It never hurts to be a little Irish when you’re running for the presidency of the United States of America,” Obama joked during a campaign stop in 2008.

Megan Smolenyak, author of the book “Who Do You Think You Are?” and the former chief family historian for Ancestry.com, tells CNN that President Obama’s Irish lineage is a typical migration story.

“His heritage has got shades from many different countries,” Smolenyak says. “There’s towns in Germany, in England and Ireland. Everybody wants to claim a piece of Barack Obama’s past. He’s like many of us: an American mutt.”  


The president’s great uncle Ralph Dunham, who lives in Virginia, tells CNN he’s known of the family’s Irish roots for some time.  He distinctly remembers his grandmother speaking with an Irish brogue.

Dunham, whose brother is Obama’s maternal grandfather who helped raise him in Hawaii, teasingly insists one trademark Obama feature does not come from their Irish side.

“Big ears do not come from my side of the family,” says Dunham. “I mean, even at an age when you’re supposed to be the biggest ever in your life, my ears aren’t that big.”

CNN’s Tim Garraty in Washington, and Diana Magnay in Moneygall, Ireland contributed to this report.



Topics: Ireland • President Obama • Uncategorized

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. ophu

    I suppose it's easy to forget that Barack O'bama is half-white. Who knows how many bloodlines he has, and from where. This should be very interesting.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  2. ophu

    BTW, just from reading comments elsewhere, I think it really irks a certain segment of the population every times he turns out to be a little less foreign than they would like to think.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Jay in NC

      "easy to forget that Barack O'bama is half-white"? That ugly Liberal racism rears its ugly head again.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
      • chance

        If he can say it then anyone should be able to say it...That is part of his platform..."I am half-white"...more like half-retarded!!! just like the "N" word...any half-white person would know what I am talking about.

        May 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
      • Nan Allustiarte

        Try muslim , nigroid and may ? of white

        March 18, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  3. jean2009

    Yes, it also heats a certain segment of the population when people agree with his policies. They can't see past a certain color blindness.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  4. JerrynFlorida

    Wow! Tell, does anyone really care! He should be dealing with America's pressing issues instead of flying off to Ireland to zip some home brewiskis. Also, throwing Israel, one of our staunchest allies in the middle east under the bus will come to haunt him. And of course, it's all well deserved!

    Now, watch out for the president's supporters to cry out "racist" for the next two or more days.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  5. chance

    Foriegn? Ireland is foreign!!! Not America People...Just another reason to spend our money on another vacation...and take some of the Queens limelight...He is campaigning for 2012 and thinks that the irish will vote him in now that the blacks know he is a fraud...I am done.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  6. John Leibman

    He was born in Ireland!

    May 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  7. Dick Hertz

    If they want him then they can have him? We need someone in Office that works for Americans. And it sure ain't him. Next he'll be chasing his Mexican roots. He definately want's to be King of Mexico.

    May 23, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  8. WpBill

    So now that I know he is Irish as well as half white I guess, now when I chose to critisize his policies and ideology, I
    am only half-racist?

    May 23, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  9. Malcolm

    Hey Dick, unless you are Native American, then you should remember you, or one of your ancestors ARE one of those foreigners.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Nan Allustiarte

      Correct and I am native american!

      March 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  10. Pat

    He is 5 percent Irish. There is more here than that. It is about JOHN LENNON! Yes, people there is a lovechild daughter coming. Lennon was half Irish. Irish Prime Minister looking for tourism and tourism dollars. Wait until this bomshell drops and everyone wants to see Lennon's Irish ancestry on his father's side.

    June 1, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  11. keith McDowell

    Very stupid!!!! who cares? Maybe the TEA PARTY will now get off his back.......HAha;} Spend some time getting jobs for Americans in CAlifornia

    March 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
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