Obama visit to Ireland: scenes from a US soap opera

Henry Healy pictured with a statue of Barack Obama Henry Healy finally met his eight cousin Barack Obama on Monday

Barack Obama's whistlestop tour of Ireland was like a scene from a sugary American soap opera.

There was a car accident, weather problems and plenty of drama but it all ended happily ever after.

A family hug on the main street of Moneygall village between the President and his long-lost eighth cousin, Henry Healy, allowed Mr Obama to seal his Irish roots.

It also allowed him to woo the 37m Irish-Americans back home who are wondering where their vote will go in next year's presidential election.

Bar tab

The hug on Moneygall main street was a moment in history. No wonder the new found cousin has been dubbed Henry the Eighth.

In case anyone missed the family reunion, the action then moved to the pub.

What happened next was the most predictable event in Ireland since Jedward were picked to represent the country in the recent Eurovision Song Contest.

Mr Obama ordered a pint of the black stuff, looked over at the bank of cameras and took a large sip.

Then came the surprising bit. He paid for the drink.

"I just want you to know that the President pays his bar tab," he announced.

Enda Kenny (left) and Barack Obama Irish prime minister Enda Kenny is hoping for a boost from the high profile visit

It is just as well. Ireland needs all the money it can get.

The country's massive debts will not disappear overnight in spite of Obama-mania.

Ireland is going through a four-year austerity programme, in order to start to pay back its 85bn euros international bail-out.

The visit of the American president this week - and the Queen last week - may pave the way for more inward investment. They will almost certainly lead to a tourism boost.

Bumpy road

However, the road to recovery for the Irish economy is going to be a bumpy one.

The immediate priority for the Dublin government is to negotiate a lower interest rate for their bail-out, and ensure that they resist European efforts to force them to raise corporation tax.

It is not clear whether they will succeed.

However, the past seven days in Ireland have already achieved something - a sharp rise in national morale.

Obama wows Dublin crowd with Irish Gaelic version of "Yes we can"

After two years of economic meltdown, the VIP visits have got many Irish eyes smiling again.

Just to cap it all, the Leinster rugby team won rugby's premier European competition, the Heineken Cup, with an astonishing second-half comeback against Northampton at the weekend.

The country has been given a lift on all fronts.

Barack Obama played his part in helping to cheer up the nation.

No-one was more happy than 18-year-old Jessica Walls. At the end of the presidential walkabout in Dublin, she handed the president her mobile phone and asked him to speak to her mum.

He duly obliged. When it comes to Hollywood-style moments, Obama is on a roll.

He is becoming almost Clinton-esque.

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