Irish Welcome Home Starts Obama's Europe Trip

Originally published on May 22, 2011 1:49 pm
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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

NPR's Scott Horsley will be traveling with the president and he joins us now. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Liane.

HANSEN: The first stop on this trip is Ireland and the president announced it, suitably enough, on St. Patrick's Day.

HORSLEY: And Mr. Obama said he didn't want to just visit Dublin and sort of the usual tourist sites. He also wanted to go to the tiny village of Moneygall. That is the home of President Obama's great-great-great-grandfather on his mother's side. And the Taoiseach says Ireland is anxious to give Cade Milli falcha(ph), or a hundred thousand welcomes, to its new favorite son.

ENDA KENNY: There is no one as Irish as Barack Obama.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

KENNY: And may I say, sir, Mr. President, they are cueing up in their thousands to tell you that in Moneygall.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

HORSLEY: And, Liane, I'm told that's true. The whole town has been repainted in anticipation of the president's visit.

HANSEN: Repainted? Well, from Ireland, President Obama travels to England. He didn't go to the royal wedding but I bet he's going to get plenty of ruffles and flourishes.

HORSLEY: His aides here say that will really be sort of the keynote of this weeklong European trip. He'll be stressing the indispensable role that Europe needs to play in addressing global challenges, whether it's the war in Afghanistan or the dramatic changes that we're seeing in the Middle East.

HANSEN: Europe hasn't always had that kind of love from the Obama administration.

HORSLEY: There's also been a sense that as the president has tried to open new doors across the Pacific - I mean, he's made much of his role as the first Pacific president in doing outreach to Asia - there's been a sense in Europe that Mr. Obama has sometime neglected his old allies across the Atlantic.

HANSEN: This continent still matters to the United States, not only as a big trading partner but as a military ally, and as countries that share the United States' democratic values - the same values that he was talking about this past week that he hopes to help spread in North Africa and the Middle East.

HANSEN: Well, the changes in the Middle East are some of the biggest since the fall of the Berlin Wall. And Mr. Obama is going to end this trip meeting with leaders who've come out from behind the iron curtain.

HORSLEY: It's also a chance for the president to provide sort of military reassurance to some of the newer members of NATO that the United States is very much committed to their security in the world. And it's also an opportunity to highlight how those newly democratized countries in central and eastern Europe can be a model for the kind of peaceful transition and change that he's hoping to see in the Middle East.

HANSEN: NPR's Scott Horsley. Safe trip, Scott.

HORSLEY: Thank you, Liane. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.