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Friday, May 20, 2011

White House Officials Give Press Briefing on President Obama's Trip to Europe, starting in Ireland

Senior White House officials held a press conference call today to discuss President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Europe the week of May 23, 2011.

You can read the full transcript of the Press Conference here.

Here are excerpts on the Ireland portion of the trip:

Ben Rhodes, White House Official:

Our first stop on the trip is Ireland, and one of the people who has heritage in Ireland in the United States is, of course, the President. We arrive in Dublin on Monday morning, and the first event will be a meeting between the President and the First Lady, with President McAleese and her husband as well, an important opportunity to discuss both bilateral issues with President McAleese and also to honor her extraordinary legacy of serving the people of Ireland and advancing peace in Northern Ireland as well.

After that, the President will meet with the Taoiseach -- again, this will be with the First Lady -- to discuss a range of bilateral issues. Then the President will travel to Moneygall, Ireland, which is the town in Ireland from which the President’s ancestors came. So this is a homecoming of sorts for President Obama. He’s very excited to see this small town in Ireland from which he has roots, and we’re very much looking forward to seeing some of the people of Moneygall and making a stop there.

After that, he’ll return to Dublin, where he’ll be able to deliver remarks at a public event about the ties between the United States and Ireland.

We spend the night in Dublin that night, and the next day, Tuesday, the 24th, travel to London.

Question: Good morning. My question is about Ireland. Does the President -- does he still have -- you said he has family there? Is he going to meet cousins or family?

Ben Rhodes: The President, researching his background, was able to trace his mother’s side of the family back to Ireland, and specifically to Moneygall. I believe that it is -- we could confirm this -- but I believe it’s a great-great-grandfather -- three greats.

So he has roots in Ireland and in Moneygall. Moneygall is a town of under 300 people in Ireland. It’s -- I’ve seen reports about the bloodlines that extend across the town and people who may be related to the President. So it’s certainly quite likely that in a town of that size that is so deeply rooted in that part of Ireland that there are people who share those ties. I couldn’t say with certainty who -- the nature of those relations, but we certainly expect it to be a robust topic of discussion with the residents of Moneygall when the President is able to stop by and pay a visit.

Question: Can you say a little bit more about the Dublin public speech? Is that going to be sort of more -- maybe more personal, or is it very Irish -- Irish-centric?

Ben Rhodes: The Dublin remarks I think will be very Irish-focused. And I think it’s a chance to talk about the relationship between our two countries. It’s also a chance to talk about the enormous affinity, frankly, that the American people have for Ireland that’s rooted in part in the huge population of Irish-Americans here. And it’s a chance for the President to really celebrate the ties between our countries and the kind of unique feelings that the American people have for Ireland, and hopefully that the Irish people have had with the United States for many years.

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