News / Europe

Obama to Start 6-Day Europe Trip in Ireland

President Barack Obama delivers a policy address on events in the Middle East at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, May 19, 2011.
President Barack Obama delivers a policy address on events in the Middle East at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, May 19, 2011.
Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Ireland on Monday for the start of a six-day, four-nation tour of Europe. The president is expected to discuss economic issues with Irish leaders and explore his family's history in a small Irish town.

The state of the global economy will likely be a recurring topic for President Obama throughout the week, and especially in Ireland, which has been dealing with massive government debt.  Several months ago, Ireland received emergency financial aid from the International Monetary Fund and the the European Union.  Economic issues are expected to be discussed when the president meets with Irish President Mary McAleese and Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

Meanwhile, the United States is dealing with its own debt issues.  The federal government is rapidly approaching its legal borrowing limit, and opposition Republicans in Congress say they will not raise the limit without large spending cuts.

But much of the president's visit to Ireland will be of a lighter nature. Mr. Obama and his family will visit a small town where some of his ancestors had lived. “I am expecting to go, not only to all the famous sites, but also to go to Moneygall, where my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather hails from," he said.

In 1850, Mr. Obama's great-great-great-grandfather set out for America from the town of Moneygall, which today is home to fewer than 300 people.  And the president will likely meet some distant relatives during his brief visit.

Ireland's Ambassador to the United States, Michael Collins, explained Mr. Obama's Irish lineage in a recent talk to The Heritage Foundation research group in Washington. “A man called Falmouth Carney sailed to America at the age of 19 on a vessel called the S.S. Marmion.  He was a shoemaker, and his great-great-great-grandson will be returning to Ireland next Monday as president of the United States.  It is the story of improbable success, almost of Irish legend," he said.

White House officials say that overall, the president's Europe trip is intended to reaffirm America's “core alliances” with European nations. The United States collaborates closely with European allies on many of its international ventures.  

From Ireland, President Obama will move on to Britain on Tuesday. There, he will speak to both houses of Parliament, meet with Prime Minister David Cameron and be honored by Queen Elizabeth at a state dinner.

Later in the week, Mr. Obama will attend the Group of Eight economic summit in the French resort city of Deauville. Security, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, is expected to be on the agenda. The president will meet separately with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, among other leaders.

Mr. Obama's final stop will be Poland, where he will attend a meeting of Central European leaders and visit several cultural sites.

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