New Obama statue unveiled in Moneygall

Thursday, 23 August 2018

New Obama statue unveiled in Moneygall thumbnailPictured at the unveiling of bronze sculptures of US President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama at Barack Obama Plaza in Moneygall on Monday

A STUNNING new sculpture celebrating the visit of Barack and Michelle Obama's visit to Moneygall in 2011 was unveiled on Monday by the author of President Obama's famous 'Is Feidir Linn' speech in College Green.
Cody Keenan, who is a seventh generation Irish descendent from both sides of his family and the wordsmith who penned several of Barack Obama's most iconic speeches, visited Moneygall for the second time on Monday, after he accompanied the President and his wife on their famous visit seven years ago.
There to welcome him was the man he christened Henry the Eighth, Moneygall's Henry Healy, President Obama's eighth cousin and closest Irish relative.
Mr Healy now manages the ultra-modern Barack Obama service station and visitor centre, which celebrates the Irish heritage of the President and several other American luminaries and employs over 160 local people, the majority of whom live within a ten-mile radius of the facility.
The facility is owned by Supermac's founder Pat McDonagh, who commissioned the beautiful sculpture by famous artist Mark Rode, which now crowns a specially created plinth outside the service station where the famous couple's effigies' wave at motorists passing by on the busy M7 motorway.
Clearly moved by the invitation to unveil the statue, Cody Keenan said he has been thinking a lot about family ancestry since arriving in Ireland to return to Moneygall and that his own Irish heritage is something he is very proud of.
I know President Obama is very humbled by this I spoke to him this weekend and he asked me to send pics of the statues as soon as I can, Mr Keenan said at an intimate function held in the Visitor Centre before the official unveiling.
In attendance were a number of the local Clergy, as well as the Cathaoirligh of both Tipperary and Offaly County Councils, several TD's and local Councillors, accompanied by a large number of proud Moneygall people.
Pulling in I was surprised at how much it moved me to see this place. I have dedicated my life to President Obama for so long and when you do that for someone you want to see them be properly recognised, Mr Keenan said.
When he visited Moneygall with Barack and Michelle in 2011 the service station was still a greenfield site and while the Presidential couple were in Ollie Hayes' bar enjoying a pint of Guinness, Mr Keenan and the Secret Service agents were at the rear of the premises enjoying several pints themselves.
President Obama still has the drawing of Falmouth Kearney (his Moneygall ancestor) hanging on the wall in his office behind his desk. What a gift it was that the descendant of Moneygall was able to make a return and he is so happy to see Ireland thriving today.
Huge numbers of people pass by here every day and think of Barack Obama what an incredible legacy that is, Mr Keenan said.
Following his address, Henry Healy presented Mr Keenan with a beautifully carved plaque depicting his family crest which has been carved in locally sourced bog oak that is over 6,000 years old.
Pat McDonagh, owner of the Barack Obama Plaza, told the gathering that President Obama's 'Is Feidir Linn' speech motivated him and his wife Una to push forward with the challenge to create the facility in Moneygall.
Today we are celebrating with permanence that Falmouth Kearney walked past this field where we are now and started a journey that would lead to his descendent becoming the most powerful man in the world and then one day returning, Mr McDonagh said.
Mark Rode is the best and he has welded the past and the future together in a beautiful celebration of President Obama. Cody is the one who gave us that first glimmer of hope and optimism in the dark time of 2011 with the hopeful message of the 'Is Feidir Linn' speech. Those words gave me and Una the strength to build the Plaza, Mr McDonagh said.
Mr McDonagh said the site was a green field when President Obama passed by seven years ago, and that it had now become the crossroads of Ireland.
Creator of the new sculpture, Mark Rode, also created the statue of Thomas McDonagh in nearby Cloughjordan and the statue of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in Cong in Mayo and in a short address in Moneygall, thanked Pat McDonagh for the opportunity to celebrate such an important moment.
Mr Rode, who originally hails from Australia and relocated to Ireland to set up his artist's studio in rural Mayo, also created the bust of President Obama which is located in the Visitor Centre and was unveiled by Irish Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O'Malley, in 2016.
Creating these statues for Moneygall has been the pinnacle of my career so far as a sculptor which I started in earnest over 20-years-ago. My obsession was getting all the small details right and capturing the essence of this stylish and graceful couple, Mr Rode said.
Ciaran Cannon, Minister of State for the Diaspora, was also in attendance and reminisced about growing up very close to Pat McDonagh in rural Galway and said that the Supermac's founder was always devoted to the idea of community.
Falmouth Kearney, at the age of only 19 and the son of a local shoemaker, was very brave to take that journey into the unknown and now because of it Moneygall and the United States will remain forever inextricably linked, Deputy Cannon said.
Cody so eloquently describes that unique relationship between our two countries and that community means everything to Pat and Una McDonagh. I am deeply grateful to them for sustaining so many small communities around the country, he said.


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