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Obama to Visit Ireland in May

President Barack Obama during his meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, March, 17, 2011

President Barack Obama said he plans to visit Ireland as part of his trip to Europe in May. The president made his announcement as he celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with visiting Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

The president told his White House visitor he looks forward to seeing Ireland, where some of his ancestors lived. “I wanted to say today that I intend to come to Ireland in May, and 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.”

Obama’s Irish ancestors left for the United States in 1850 to escape Ireland’s potato famine, which devastated the country’s economy.

St. Patrick’s Day is not an official holiday in the United States, but many Americans celebrate by wearing green clothing and listening to Irish music. Some even drink beer that has been dyed green for the occasion.

St. Patrick, who lived in the fifth century, is recognized by the Roman Catholic Church and several other Christian denominations as the patron saint of Ireland.

Almost 37 million Americans claim Irish heritage, and Obama said the two countries share a close kinship.

“We, obviously, have the strongest possible relationship with Ireland. The warmth, the affection, the familial and person-to-person contacts between our two countries extend far beyond any dry policy issues. There is just an incredible bond between our two countries.”

The president said Ireland is bouncing back from its economic crisis, and Kenny agreed, saying Ireland is open for business.

“We appreciate the investment of so much foreign direct investment from the U.S. to our country. But unlike previous centuries, we come bearing gifts as well. There are many Irish companies now operating in the U.S., with at least 80,000 American jobs created out of Irish firms here.”

The prime minister’s St. Patrick’s Day schedule also included a special lunch at the U.S. Capitol and an evening dinner at the White House.