Hailed by one local man as a “long-lost cousin”, Barack Obama kicked off his European tour in Ireland with a visit to the ancestral home.
“Is Féidir Linn” read one welcoming banner in Moneygall, the village which the president’s great-great-great grandfather left to emigrate to America.
The Gaelic translation of “yes we can” was to ring out many times during the day.
In the local pub Obama was happy to pay for his Guinness himself, to cheers from those crowding around him.
He might have needed a drink by then. The presidential Cadillac is built to withstand bombs, bullets and chemical attack – but not apparently Dublin speed ramps.
The first vehicle in the president’s convoy got stuck as it left the US embassy, running aground on top of the bump as it swept through the gates.
The hiccup was forgotten – as were Ireland’s economic woes – as the president addressed a crowd of thousands at Dublin’s College Green.
A week after the British Queen’s visit, Obama praised the Irish for overcoming sectarian conflict, and told them their country’s best days were still ahead.
“If anybody ever tells you that your problems are too big, that your challenges are too great, that we can’t do something, that we shouldn’t even try… think about all that we’ve done together,” said the president. “Remember that whatever hardships the winter may bring, springtime’s always just around the corner. And if they keep on arguing with you, just respond with a simple creed: ‘Is Féidir Linn’… ‘Yes we can’!”
It was a day to raise Irish spirits – and do no harm to Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign back home.
The next stop in the four-nation tour is the UK. The president and his team flew to London early, because of fears that flights may be disrupted by volcanic ash from Iceland.