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Irish welcome vindication for former Chicago pol Obama

May 23, 2011|By Christi Parsons
(Jewel Samad/AFP )

Reporting from Dublin, Ireland — It has been eight years since Barack Obama was relegated to the back-end of the St. Patrick's Day parade through the Chicago Loop, but he still remembers it.

There he was, as he told the story Monday, a Democrat seeking nomination for the U.S. Senate seat without so much as an apostrophe in his last name.

Being a Chicago Dem, he told a crowd of thousands here on Monday, "a politician like me craved a slot in the St. Patrick’s Day parade."

"The problem was not many people knew me or could even pronounce my name," he said. "I told them it was a Gaelic name. They didn’t believe me."

Photos: A snapshot of Obama's visit to Ireland

But Monday was a different story. Obama visited Ireland as a native son -- or, as his much-studied family tree would have it, a great-great-great-grandson.

His mother's family hails from Moneygall, as local genealogists tell it, and now practically everyone in the town of 300 claims some connection.

So when Obama addressed tens of thousands at Trinity College here, he couldn't help rubbing it in a bit.

It was the story of the downtown parade in March 2003, a tale that staffers of the time have heard many times.

"A few volunteers and I did make it into the parade, but we were literally the last marchers," Obama recalled. "After two hours, finally it was our turn."

As they rode the route, smiling and waving, the city workers were right behind them, cleaning up the garbage. 

"It was a little depressing," he said. "But I’ll bet those parade organizers are watching TV today and feeling kind of bad, because this is a pretty good parade right here."

The newly discovered family records are welcome, said Obama, even if they come a little after the fact.

"I do wish somebody had provided me all this genealogical evidence earlier because it would have come in handy back when I was first running in my hometown of Chicago," he said, "because Chicago is the Irish capital of the Midwest."

Photos: A snapshot of Obama's visit to Ireland

cparsons@tribune.com

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