USA’s 31st Irish President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II are likely to visit Ireland in late May or early June of 2011.
In the case of President Obama his visit is likely to coincide with other European engagements. “The end of May is likely,” said an official, familiar with discussions regarding Mr Obama’s forthcoming trip to Europe. Records unearthed by the Church of Ireland’s Rev. Canon Stephen Neill show beyond doubt that Mr Obama’s ancestors, on his mother’s side lived, worked, married and had children in the Moneygall area, situated on the border separating counties Tipperary and Offaly. It is expected that the president will wish to visit his ancestral home during this visit.
Mr Obama and his wife, US first lady Michelle Obama, will visit Britain on a state visit at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II, from May 24th to 26th. He will travel on to Deauville, France, for the G8 Summit on May 26th to 27th. Discussions within the US administration are now focused on whether Mr Obama should visit Ireland before London or after Deauville and the White House hope it is before the UK, visit according to US officials.
Neither the White House, the Irish Embassy in Washington nor indeed the US embassy in Dublin would confirm officially that a visit is likely in late May. Discussions about the trip appear not to have, so far, involved the Irish government, with the speculation that the US are waiting for Irish politics to be fully clarified over the coming week.
The annual St Patrick’s Day pilgrimage to Washington will be one of the first acts of our new Taoiseach Enda Kenny and if the May expected visit materialises, a visit is likely to be announced at the White House during the St Patrick’s Day reception.
Democratic congressman Richard Neal, the former head of the Friends of Ireland in the House of Representatives, stated that a visit to Ireland would have obvious implications for Mr Obama’s re-election campaign.
Planning in relation to both visits is somewhat complicated by the fact that Irish President Mary McAleese has already issued an invitation to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, to visit Ireland, probably also in late May or June.
Regarding Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s II visit, there may be a reluctance on the part of the Irish government to take on two such important visits so close together, however these logistics are something that both governments will be anxious to negotiate.
Queen Elizabeth II, although she has never visited Thurles, has strong ancestral connections with the town and is a direct descendant of Viscount and Lady Thurles through their eldest son, the Duke of Ormond. The Duke’s daughter, Elizabeth, married Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl Chesterfield, and their daughter Elizabeth Stanhope married John Lyon, 4th Earl Strathmore. Six generations later in direct line was the 14th Earl Strathmore whose daughter, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married the future King George VI; and these are the grandparents of Prince Charles. Thurles is therefore expected to be included as a stop off point in any proposed future visit.
Many of Queen Elizabeth’s ancestors are buried at St. Mary’s Church here in Thurles, including Lady Elizabeth Butler,(Elizabeth Poyntz, Acton, 1673.) from whom she inherited her christian name. Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones, wife of Prince Edward attended a funeral on behalf of the British Royal Family in November last, here in Upperchurch, Thurles, Co Tipperary.