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“You just be grateful they did’nt find you’re related to Gadaffi…”

It was announced earlier this week, and just in time for St Patrick’s Day, that Obama has Irish roots and will be visiting the auld sod later on this year, in May.

A “new” study by Ancestry.com – which has actually been kicking about since 2007 and had already been extensively reviewed by timesonline in 14 March 2007 and by Raidio Teilifis Eireann also in 2007 – was wheeled out for another romp round the block in the New York Times and others this week.  Breathlessly, it noted that Barak had 28 living relatives who shared his Irish ancestry.

It seems churlish to draw attention to the fact that Barak’s relatives have been somewhat underwhelmed by it all.  The New York Times quoted Roma Palme of Mulvan, Kans as telling Associated Press “He isn’t one of my favourite Presidents”.  Eighty-three year old Dorma Le Reese of Tucson stated “ I’m no Democrat so I can’t say I clapped” 

Ancestry.com had found some years ago that Falmouth Kearney had fled the famine and arrived in the USA .  Obama’s mother Ann Dunham was a descendent of one of Keaney’s daughters.

Having a drop of the Oirish is seemingly important to US Democrat Presidents.

Doubtless you remember John Kennedy’s return in triumph to Wexford in 1963, but do you remember Bill Clinton’s foray into the mire that is Irish Genealogy?

Bill Clinton’s background is somewhat vague for a President.  After his inauguration he famously said that he was now going to look for his cousins.  The usual pattern for Presidents is that after their election they have to beat relatives off with sticks.  Repeated rumours of his “True” ancestry abound.  His middle name “Jefferson” has an entire industry trying to link him – Sally Hemmings style- to Jefferson whilst others state that he is nothing less than the illegitimate son of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller who was his political godfather and mentor.

Bill too, you might remember, was due to visit Ireland in 1985 with the intention of repeating the spectacular success of Kennedy’s visit all those years before.  Of course  it was seen as a political necessity by the White House organisers to reunite the bold boy with the rellies.  So, poor old Michael Cassidy, from Co. Fermanagh, a man who had been quietly minding his own business propping up the corner of a bar in the pub in the family village, was poked out into the glare of a media scrum to meet the great man and to have his hand shaken.  Only it didn’t work out like that.  It became a bit of a farce.  He was dropped unceremoniously by the Clinton entourage and the “auld place” studiously avoided once it became clear that the whole thing was just White House wishful thinking.

Michael was noted as being philosophical about any disappointment he might have felt, saying dryly as he leaned on his shovel, with just a hint of a smile, that there were no hard feelings.

So, if you are in Ireland around May time and think you have Kearney blood in you don’t be getting too exited!

Copyright David Macadam 2011 

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