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Monday, May 23, 2011

We didn't realise you were such a big Jedward fan, Michelle. First Lady looks the part as she arrives in a windswept Ireland

By Daily Mail Reporter

This morning's blustery conditions at Dublin Airport caused havoc with Michelle Obama's hair - and she ended up looking like she had taken inspiration from Irish pop duo Jedward

With a hairstyle like that, she could have been auditioning to join Jedward.

But it was just the wind that made Michelle Obama's hair stand on end as she and her husband stepped onto the tarmac at Dublin Airport.

President Barack Obama landed in Ireland this morning on the first day of his four-country, six-day European tour.

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The U.S. President and his wife are greeted by Ireland's deputy prime minister Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore after stepping off Air Force One in Dublin earlier

His largely ceremonial visit will highlight America's deep ties with the Irish.

The centrepiece of Obama's 24-hour stop on the Emerald Isle will be a visit to Moneygall, the tiny village in Co. Offaly where Obama's maternal great-great-great-grandfather was born.

Residents in the town of 350 are eagerly anticipating Obama's arrival and hope to raise a pint with the American President who shares their roots.

Air Force One landed amid tight security and wet, blustery conditions at Dublin Airport just after 9.30am.

Strong winds catch the hair of the U.S. First Lady as she arrives at Dublin airport

The President was met by Ireland's deputy prime minister Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and his wife Carol Hanney, and U.S. ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney.

Mr Obama waved as he stepped off the plane with Michelle.

The visit lacked the ceremony of last week's state visit of the Queen, with only a small welcoming party waiting on the runway apron to greet the President and shake hands.

Barack Obama meets with Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny at Farmleigh in Dublin

Obama enjoys a joke with Kenny ahead of talks with the Irish Prime Minister

The Obamas immediately boarded helicopter Marine One to travel the few miles to the residence of Irish President Mary McAleese in the Phoenix Park, Aras an Uachtarain.

Airspace around Dublin has been shut down for the President's arrival and transfer over the capital.

From Ireland, Obama will travel to England, France and Poland.

President McAleese greeted President Obama at the front steps of the Aras.

'Thank you so much. We're thrilled to be here,' he said.

And despite the grey skies, the President remarked: 'The sun's coming out - I can feel it.'

He signed the visitor's book before holding private talks in the drawing room of the Aras with the Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The U.S. President and his wife were all smiles as they stepped off Air Force One in Dublin

Air Force One sits on the tarmac after landing at Dublin Airport just after 9.30am this morning

The President will later travel to Moneygall ahead of a public concert this afternoon in Dublin.

Ever since the American President announced on St Patrick's Day he would visit Moneygall, the village has been suffering an incurable case of Obamamania.

This roadside hamlet of two pubs, three shops and barely 350 residents has repainted every house, festooned every lamppost and seemingly rebranded every product in preparation for Monday's visit by President Obama.

U.S. President Barack Obama jokingly swings a hurling stick given to him by Mr Kenny (right) during his visit to Farmleigh House

The U.S. President meets Irish President Mary McAleese at her official residence in Dublin this morning

Barack Obama poses with (from left) U.S. Ambassador Daniel M. Rooney and his wife Patricia, Mary McAleese and her husband Martin, and Michelle Obama outside the presidential residence in Dublin

Locals have stood in line for hours to receive one of 3,000 tickets that will let them meet Moneygall's most famous son.

'We've all been caught up in this dream. Nothing in the village seems real,' said Henry Healy, a 26-year-old accountant for a plumbing firm who discovered four years ago he was one of Obama's closest Irish relatives.

'I've been rehearsing what I'm going to say to the President for months in my head. I can't really believe it's going to happen.'

Children wave U.S. flags as they queue to see President Barack Obama address a rally at College Green in Dublin today

Thousands line up for a security check before a concert in Dublin at which President Obama will appear and give a speech this evening

As he spoke, the powerful rotors of two U.S. military helicopters thumped in the distance, and a deliveryman arrived with another truckload of spiced Irish fruitbread called brack - rebranded 'Barack's Brack' this month across Ireland and bearing a cartoon portrait of the President.

Healy received Ticket No. 0001 since he's an eighth cousin to Obama, the closest blood relative still living in Moneygall. In fact, he lives next door to the American flag-festooned pub that Obama is expected to visit.

U.S. and Irish genealogists have detected several other distant Irish cousins of Obama living in Ireland and England, including Dick Benn and Ton Donovan, whose families live just across the border in County Tipperary and have farmed the same land for 250 years.

Michelle Obama gasps beside Fionnuala Kenny, centre, wife of the Irish PM as they view an embroidered panel depicting the Norman Invasion during a tour of Farmleigh House

They're all descendants of Falmouth Kearney, one of Obama's great-great-great grandfathers on his Kansas mother's side.

Kearney, a shoemaker, emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1850 at age 19, at the height of the Great Famine.

Every known Irish relative is expected to be standing on Moneygall's Main Street when Obama arrives later today.

Nationally, Ireland has barely had time to register Obama's imminent arrival. The country just hosted a high-security tour of Queen Elizabeth II, the first British monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland following its 1919-21 war of independence from Britain.

Her triumphant four-day tour involved carefully choreographed acts of reconciliation.
No such drama awaits Obama. Ireland has always offered warm welcomes to U.S. presidents since John F. Kennedy became the first to visit in 1963. More than 40 million Americans have Irish ancestors. The two countries today enjoy exceptional ties of culture and commerce, a crucial relationship for Ireland because of its current battle to avoid national bankruptcy.

Obama's biggest event today will be an open-air speech at the entrance to Trinity College in Dublin, the capital that spent much of the last week in a security lockdown for the Queen.

A no-ticket crowd is being encouraged to gather in the street outside Trinity several hours beforehand, lured in part by rumours that an array of Irish bands, actors and other celebrities will provide a warm-up act.

Obama and his wife wave goodbye to the U.S. as they depart for the President's four-country, six-day European tour

Obama and the First Lady leave the White House last night to travel to Dublin

While Obama is widely admired in Ireland, he doesn't have anything close to the fan base built by Bill Clinton, who made Northern Ireland peacemaking a top priority and visited both parts of Ireland three times from 1995 to 2000.

But Moneygall officials have been cheering for Obama since the Iowa primaries in hopes that his entry to the White House would put their long-bypassed village - beside the Dublin-to-Limerick highway in the southwest corner of County Offaly - on the tourist map.

They held an all-night party in Ollie's Bar the night Obama won the 2008 presidential race, and began lobbying for a visit immediately. Obama announced he would come during the St. Patrick's Day visit to Washington by Ireland's newly elected prime minister, Enda Kenny.

Secret Service agents in dark suits and sunglasses arrived in Moneygall last month.

Locals have applied 3,500 litres of paint and laid new pavements. A village caterer has painted U.S. and Irish flags on the front of his home and is cooking Obama burgers. Construction workers have hurriedly built the Obama Cafe. The altar of the Catholic church has been covered in red, white and blue bunting.

Guinness last week delivered a specially brewed keg of stout to be poured the moment when Obama walks through the door of Ollie's Bar, which sports a bronze bust, painting and life-size photo cut-out of the President.

U.S. and British flags line The Mall in preparation for the state visit of President Barack Obama tomorrow

British police officers patrol today in front of Parliament ahead of the visit by Obama

Members of the Scots Guards take part in a Trooping the Colour rehearsal in London today ahead of Obama's state visit tomorrow

Meanwhile, some of the tightest security measures ever seen in London are currently underway ahead of the President's three-day state visit to the UK tomorrow.

David Cameron and Barack Obama are to unveil an unprecedented joint national security drive as the U.S. leader makes his first state visit to our shores.

Government sources revealed that the White House has agreed to open up its secretive National Security Council to Downing Street, the first such arrangement in the world.

A joint U.S.-UK national security board is to be established so that senior officials on both sides can convene regularly to discuss long-term foreign policy, defence and security issues, including terrorism.

The deal is intended to signal that the transatlantic ‘special relationship’, which has been under strain over defence cuts, continuing controversy over the release of the Lockerbie bomber and President Obama’s initially cool attitude to the UK, remains unparalleled.

The bilateral group will meet every six to eight weeks – either in person or by video-conference. It will focus on ‘horizon-scanning’ for security or foreign policy issues that threaten the U.S. and UK’s safety or national interests.

He and Mr Cameron, accompanied by their wives Michelle and Samantha, will serve food at a barbecue in the Downing Street garden on Wednesday for UK and U.S. veterans.

The main focus of their talks will be Afghanistan, where both leaders are keen to demonstrate an exit strategy with rapid reductions in the number of troops on the ground.



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