U.S. president arrives in Ireland for official visit

08:13, May 24, 2011      

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U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive at the Dublin Airport in Dublin, Ireland, on May 23, 2011, for a 24-hour official visit.(Xinhua/Maxwell Photography)

U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived here Monday morning for a 24-hour official visit.

U.S. Air Force One touched down at 09:28 a.m. at the Dublin Airport, where the U.S. president and first lady were welcomed by Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore before traveling to Aras an Uachtarain (the official residence of the Irish president) by helicopter to meet Irish President Mary McAleese.

The Irish president and her husband, Martin McAleese, held a private meeting with the Obamas in the drawing-room of Aras an Uachtarain.

During their courtesy call to Irish president's official residence, the Obamas took part in a tree-planting ceremony, shoveling soil onto an Irish oak sapling newly planted in the gardens, while children rang the peace bell.

The striking residence is known as the Irish White House and every notable visiting head of state is invited to plant a tree in the grounds.

Prior to this meeting, the Obamas were invited to sign the visitors' book.

The U.S. president will then travel to nearby Farmleigh (Irish State Guest House) for an official bilateral meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. Items likely to be discussed at the 40-minute meeting with Kenny include the Irish financial situation, the EU-IMF bailout package and the Northern Ireland peace process.

Later, Obama is scheduled to go to his ancestral village of Moneygall, central Ireland's County Offaly, where he is expected to spend up to an hour.

Moneygall is home of Obama's maternal great-great-great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, who emigrated to America at age 19 in the 1850s.

Ireland is mounting its biggest ever security operation for the arrival of the U.S. president. Obama will late Monday speak at a public celebration on College Green in Dublin following an open-air concert. Security screening is put in place, there is no food or beverages allowed, signs and banners are also not allowed.

Obama became the fifth U.S. president to make an official visit to Ireland during his period of office, beginning with John F. Kennedy in 1963. Richard Nixon visited in 1970, Ronald Reagan came in 1984, Bill Clinton was here three times between 1995 and 2000 and George W. Bush visited in 2006.

Source: Xinhua
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