Obama departs for Europe trip, explores Irish roots

Reuters News
Posted: May 22, 2011 10:53 PM
Obama departs for Europe trip, explores Irish roots

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama kicked off a multi-nation European tour on Sunday, departing for Ireland, where he will explore his Irish roots in a town that once was home to a distant relative.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, took off from Andrews Air Force Base late on Sunday for a weeklong trip that will include stops in Britain, France and Poland.

Obama is expected to press U.S. allies to help advance the movement for democratic change offered by the "Arab spring" uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa during the tour.

But he starts off on a nostalgic note, visiting a country where 37 million Americans claim ancestry and going to Moneygall, a sleepy village that was the birthplace of his great-great-great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, a shoemaker.

Town residents lined up for up to six hours last week to get a ticket to see the president, who has been affectionately renamed "O'Bama" for his Irish sojourn. An exclusion zone will be in place around the town on Monday and only people with tickets will be let in.

Obama, the first African-American U.S. president, is the son of a Kenyan father and Irish-American mother.

After Ireland Obama heads to Britain, where he will be feted by Queen Elizabeth at a formal state dinner. He then attends the Group of Eight summit in France before concluding his trip in Poland, where he will meet with leaders from eastern Europe.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Steve Holland and Carmel Crimmins)