Daley hand in Obama visit

President Barack Obama's visit to Ireland was always going to be a more personal journey by a man fascinated to see the land of one of his forefathers.

In an exclusive pre-visit interview with the Echo, White House Chief of Staff, William "Bill" Daley said Obama just wanted to "soak it all in."

Daley acknowledged that Barack Hussein Obama was not exactly the prototype Irish American trampling through birth certificate records in the parish church to find his long lost relatives.

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"It's a different model than the Irish are used to, but the heritage passed through his grandfather is something he's curious about," said Daley in his office in the West Wing.

Daley ruled out any specific visa deal for the Irish during the visit, or indeed in the foreseeable future.

"That's been wrapped up in the greater immigration debate that's been going on here for about five years here and probably can't, probably won't be answered independent of a broader independent debate that's going on here," he said.

Ever since the 2008 presidential election when he became aware of his roots in Moneygall, County Offaly, President Obama has been keen to see for himself where his grandfather's ancestors came from.

His grandfather, Stanley Dunham, played a huge role in Obama's upbringing, while his mother worked abroad in Indonesia as an anthropologist. Obama's great Uncle, Ralph Dunham, recently said in an interview that he remembers his own grandmother, MaryAnn Kearney, speaking with a soft Irish brogue. Mary Anne Kearney is the daughter of Fulmouth Kearney who left Moneygall for America in 1850.

"I said to him, 'You know, there's two beauties of Ireland, there's the people and then there's the physical beauty,'" remarked Mr. Daley.

Bill Daley is himself a scion of a storied Irish American family steeped in Chicago politics. His father, the late Richard Daley, was the grandson of Irish immigrants from County Waterford and was Chicago's mayor for more than 20 years.

Bill Daley's brother, also named Richard, has just stepped down after governing the city, also for over 20 years. Bill Daley has made frequent visits to Ireland, north and south. As Commerce Secretary in the Clinton administration, Daley made multiple trips. Known as the successful businessman amongst his seven siblings, Daley left his position as a senior executive at JP Morgan Chase to take on his role in the Obama White House a few months ago.

Daley's hand would appear to be have been all over the short Obama Irish visit.

Daley was in College Green in 1995 when Bill Clinton was received by rapturous crowds. Obama replayed the scene Monday.

"I had the pleasure of going to Ireland with President Clinton and it truly is a unique opportunity, as an American, to experience. My parents would very proud to think that this president went back to Ireland and that I was working for him," Daley said.