Tag Archives: County Mayo

Obama will return to Ireland in ‘coming year or so’

Outgoing President Barack Obama will return to the Republic of Ireland “in the coming year or so,” according to U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley. “The last sentence the president said to me … [4 January] when we were saying goodbye, was ‘please tell them I’m coming’,” O’Malley told RTÉ host Marian Finucane.

While the location or context of his return is less clear than the timing, Obama is generally popular in Ireland. His May 2011 visit included a stop in Moneygall, County Offaly, the ancestral home of his great-great-great grandfather.

Since then, a service plaza was erected in Obama’s honor on the M7 motorway just outside the village. In addition to petrol and fast food, the place is packed with Obama souvenirs, plus memorabilia of popular presidents Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy. In a contemporary sense, it might be the most Irish-American spot in all of Ireland, through certainly not the most scenic or historic.

Barack Obama in Moneygall in 2011.

Obama, who also visited Northern Ireland in June 2013 for a G8 summit, leaves office 20 January, the inaugural of President-elect Donald Trump, who owns a golf resort in Doonbeg, County Clare. O’Malley will leave his Dublin post a few days earlier due to a demanded from the incoming administration that all non-career ambassadors depart immediately.

IrishCentral, citing a tweet from New York Times writer Maggie Haberman, reports the next U.S. Ambassador to Ireland will be philanthropist and businessman Brian Burns, the grandson of an emigrant from Sneem, County Kerry.  Burns, 80, and his wife, Eileen, have been close friends of Trump through the Palm Beach and Mar-A-Lago connection.

O’Malley, a St. Louis trial lawyer whose grandparents emigrated from County Mayo in the early 20th century, was appointed by Obama in June 2014 after a record-setting 18-month gap following the departure former ambassador and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney.

Mary Robinson developing Ireland’s first presidential library

Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first woman president, is developing Ireland’s first presidential library.

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The Mary Robinson Centre is expected to open in 2017 at her childhood home in Ballina, County Mayo, with an adjoining state-of-the-art archive and research facility. The Centre will be run as an academic partnership with National University of Ireland in Galway, as well as cooperative relationships with some of the more than 60 universities around the globe that have conferred honorary doctorates to Robinson.

Digitization of Robinson’s papers from her years as president, 1990-1997 (read about functions of the office in Ireland); United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, 1997-2002; as well as her earlier work as a barrister and member of the Irish Senate, is expected to be completed by the time the centre opens.

The €8.5 million project has all but the last €1 million of funding in place. Toward that end, Robinson will be the keynote speaker at the Irish American Partnership’s annual Nollaig na mBan (Woman’s Christmas) on Jan. 6, 2016, at the University Club of Washington, D.C. Register here.

The opening of the centre will be real boost to Ballina, which lies at the mouth of the River Moy and offers some of the finest salmon fishing in Ireland. The town is already home to The Jackie Clarke Collection, which includes artifacts associated with Theobald Wolfe Tone; letters from Michael Collins, Douglas Hyde, Michael Davitt and O’Donovan Rossa; plus rare books, proclamations, posters, political cartoons, pamphlets, handbills, maps, hunger strike material and personal items from leaders of the 1916 Rising.

Is it possible America’s first woman president will join the international visitors who attend the grand opening of the Mary Robinson Centre?

Ulster Bank has troubles in two Irish towns

I cover banking and money in my regular day job at the Washington Business Journal. That’s why these two bank-related stories in The Irish Times caught my eye.

An ATM machine at the Claremorris, County Mayo, branch of Ulster Bank began pushing out more than twice as much as what customers entered into the keyboard. “The result was that an unknown number of card holders walked off with funds for a Christmas shopping spree way in excess of what they had been planning,” the Times reported.

Naturally, the bank said it would trace the customers by their card and PIN identification, which is also input during the transaction. They’ll have to return the money.

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In the other story, some 1,000 residents of Ferbane, County Offaly, marched to protest Ulster Bank’s decision to close the town’s last bank branch. The Times reported:

“…a coffin bearing the words “West Offaly Rip” was carried from a sports field outside town, by six pall bearers who placed it on the steps of the Ulster Bank in the town’s main street. The pall bearers were followed by a lone piper, children from local schools, traders, residents’ associations and members of local sporting groups and the IFA. Shops and businesses closed for the duration of the march and subsequent rally. …. One protester warned, “Ferbane will leave Ulster Bank, if Ulster Bank leaves Ferbane.”

“An Ulster Bank spokeswoman said banking had changed significantly over the last few years and “more of our customers are using digital technology to bank with us where and when it is convenient for them”.

It’s the same in the U.S., where big banks are pulling out of rural locations and focusing more on metropolitan areas.