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Moneygall duo spend Patrick's Day with Obama

Story by Laura Ryder

Saturday, 24th March, 2012 11:30am

Moneygall duo spend Patrick's Day with Obama

Henry Healy celebrated St Patrick's Day with President Obama and a pint of Guinness.

If anyone has a secret to keep they'd do well to tell it to Henry Healy.

Everyone was surprised to learn that instead of just spending last Tuesday evening at the White House as part of St Patrick's celebrations, as had been planned and publicised, he and Moneygall publican Ollie Hayes were also invited to spend St Patrick's Day itself with President Obama.

Henry has revealed that indications given to him point towards Moneygall being included on the schedule if President Obama returns to Ireland, as he has suggested he will.

Speaking to the Offaly Independent from Washington DC on Wednesday last, Henry said original plans changed when he was contacted about three weeks ago by the White House and invited to make his way there to spend St Patrick's Day with the President. The only people to know about the changes on this side of the Atlantic were Henry, Ollie, a few family members and their travel agents. "If it got out it wouldn't have happened," Henry said. "That's why we were determined."

Henry and Ollie celebrated St Patrick's Day with a tour of the West Wing in the White House and a meeting with President Obama before being taken to the Dubliner Bar in the President's motorcade for a pint of Guinness. Henry and Ollie lunched at the White House on a patio, choosing a turkey wrap and a caesar salad respectively.

"The White House has been fantastic to us," Henry said. "It's a fabulous building," he added, describing the thrill of seeing in real life artifacts that he has seen on television so many times.

Travelling in the President's private motorcade for a pint is also something Henry will remember forever, and seeing the reactions of people as it travelled through the streets. "Both Ollie and myself will never experience anything like it again," he said. "We thought May 23 (when President Obama visited Moneygall) was going to be the only historic day in our lives, but the cream of the crop has really been being with the President in his home town. It's been a unique holiday."

Talking to President Obama included chats about the Irish economy, sport and even the weather, Henry revealed. President Obama also spoke fondly of his visit to Moneygall and of the town's residents he said. "The President didn't forget many of the people he met in Moneygall," Henry said, describing how he asked after Canon Stephen Neill and Fr Joe Kennedy. The President also reminisced about walking into his ancestral homestead in Moneygall last May. "He said he was sceptical at first when he heard he had Irish roots," Henry said, but that "it really struck him when he walked into the ancestral home". The President also spoke of how moved he was by the reception he got in Moneygall last May, and asked Henry to bring back with him his thanks to all the locals for that reception.

Henry and Ollie returned to the White House last Tuesday for the St Patrick's celebrations that had originally been planned. Using a different entrance to other guests, the two entered the White House via the West Wing before moving across to the East Wing to join celebrations and have photos taken with President Obama. Later they attended a late supper with the Irish Ambassador Michael Collins, which meant regretfully turning down the option of using the Presidential Box at the Kennedy Theatre of Performing Arts.

On Thursday Henry left Washington for Boston, where he will remain until Sunday for the Irish Film Festival and the showing as part of that festival of "The Road to Moneygall".

However Henry will bring home with him good memories and "strong indications" that the next time he spends time with President Obama it might just be at home in Moneygall.

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