- The Washington Times - Monday, December 14, 2009

IRISH EYES OBAMA

When U.S. Ambassador Dan Rooney visited a small Irish town to look for President Obama’s ancestors, speculation spread through Ireland that the envoy might be preparing a presidential visit to the Emerald Isle.

Mr. Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a big campaign supporter of the president’s, stopped in Moneygall in County Offaly last week and popped into Hayes’ Bar to chat with the locals.

Before last week’s visit, a U.S. Embassy spokesman stoked the speculation when a reporter for the Belfast Telegraph asked about a possible to visit to Ireland.

“They speak every couple of week, so he’ll see him after Christmas,” the spokesman said of Mr. Rooney’s frequent contacts with Mr. Obama. “It’s something he might raise with him.

“The ambassador has always said that he was hoping the president would get here before the end of his first term, but nothing has been scheduled as of yet,” the spokesman added. “If the ambassador is down there looking, if the president is coming, then [Mr. Rooney] would be recommending they go to Offaly.”

Mr. Obama traces his Irish heritage through Ann Dunham, his late mother. Moneygall is the home of Fulmouth Kearney, Mr. Obama’s great-grandfather who lived in the village more than 150 years ago.

Mr. Rooney visited the tomb of John Kearney in County Kilkenny. Mr. Kearney, Mr. Obama’s third great-uncle, was a 19th century provost of Trinity College in Dublin.

“The ambassador’s visit has fueled speculation that the exercise may be a test-run for an Obama visit to Moneygall next year,” IrishCentral.com reported Friday.

“Locals believe a visit from the most powerful man on Earth would life their spirits and take their minds off the current economic woes.”

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tuesday

Bratislav Ceperkovic, chairman of the Managing Board of Public Enterprise of the Moscow-based Transnafta energy giant; Dragomir Markovic, general manager of Public Enterprise Electric Power Industry of Serbia; and Srdjan Mihajlovic, general manager of Public Enterprise Transnafta. They discuss energy issues facing Serbia in a briefing at the Atlantic Council.

Aleisha Arnusch, lead researcher for security sector reform at Canada’s Pearson Peacekeeping Center; Timothy Donais, assistant professor for global studies at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University; and Adedeji Ebo, chief of the Security Sector Reform Unit at the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations. They address the United States Institute of Peace.

Alexei Malashenko, co-chairman of the Religion, Society and Security Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center. He discusses Russian policy in the Caucasus in a briefing at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Wednesday

Defense Minister Pieter de Crem of Belgium, who honors the veterans of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II in a public event at 12:30 p.m. at the World War II Memorial on the Mall. He also meets with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

Friday

c John Githongo, an anti-corruption campaigner in Kenya, who discusses the prospects for political reform in the East African nation at a program sponsored by the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. William M. Bellamy, a former U.S. ambassador to Kenya, is to serve as moderator.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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