Sleepy Irish village braces for Obama homecoming

Mon May 16, 2011 3:45pm EDT
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By Padraic Halpin

MONEYGALL, Ireland (Reuters) - Ollie Hayes does not usually bother to open his pub in the sleepy Irish village of Moneygall on a Monday afternoon, but he will make an exception for Barack Obama.

His opening hours, like much else in this community of 300 people, have been turned upside down by the U.S. President's plan to visit the birthplace of his great-great-great grandfather, who left for New York more than 150 years ago.

After weeks of serving a motley crew of tourists, journalists and U.S. security staff, next Monday Hayes hopes to get a chance to serve the man himself.

"He can have whatever he wants," he said before dashing off to take a call from the secret service in Washington.

"Since President Obama said he was coming to visit, it's just been mad," he said.

The "men in black" -- as the suited security staff have been dubbed by local media -- arrived shortly after Obama said on St. Patrick's Day, Ireland's March 17 national holiday, that he would make a whistle-stop tour of Ireland.

Without a restaurant or cafe in the village -- or a public toilet for that matter -- the conspicuous visitors have had to survive on takeaways from the local McDonald's some 20 km away but they nevertheless happily mingle with the locals.

Two of them pop into the village's other pub -- like most Irish villages, Moneygall has more pubs than grocery shops -- because they have been told they have to say hello to its energetic, 80-year-old landlady Julia Hayes, Ollie's aunt.   Continued...

<p>A portrait of U.S. President Barack Obama is seen in a shop in Moneygall May 16, 2011. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth</p>