Obama tells Irish: 'Can we overcome our problems? Is féidir linn' - yes we can

DUBLIN // Monarchies come and go, governments rise and fall, the economy booms then implodes again spectacularly, but Ireland is an old country, and some things never change.

It is written that whenever anyone famous visits this green island, at some point they will be presented with a pint of Guinness and a phalanx of camera lenses.

For US president Barack Obama the moment came on the afternoon of his one-day bilateral visit to Ireland yesterday, in the tiny village from which his maternal great-great-great-grandfather, Fulmouth Kearney, emigrated to the US in 1850.

"So what do we do while it settles?" he bantered, as Ollie Hayes went through the fussy steps of pouring a perfect pint in his bar in Moneygall. "Now, I have been told that it makes a difference who the person behind the bar is – that people are very particular about who is pouring their Guinness."

He turned to the barroom, crowded with ecstatic long-lost distant relatives. "Can people vouch for this guy?"

Cue laughter and applause, but there was underlying tension: how would the first couple fare? The Queen of the UK, making her historic first visit to the breakaway Irish republic last week, had merely smiled at her Guinness then moved away, preventing a visibly thirsty Prince Phillip from downing it himself.

"Sláinte!" the president announced - to your health - then took a good inch off the top of his pint with his first mouthful. Careful observers noted that the first lady, Michelle Obama, put away twice as much with hers.

She must have needed it. Arriving by helicopter in their light summer clothes, the Obamas were met by 3,000 rapturous locals and a full-on North Atlantic storm, with winds gusting up to 100kph and vicious squalls of rain.

Undeterred, the first couple dived straight towards the barriers holding back the crowd, pressing flesh, kissing old ladies, even taking temporary custody of two babies.

For Mr Obama this first official visit to his maternal ancestral homeland - the link was confirmed by genealogists in 2007 - will be followed by a full state visit to Britain, the G8 summit in Deauville, France, and an important security meeting in Poland.

Ireland was meant to be the fun part of the trip. As the president joked in Hayes's pub, feigning suspicion, "How much has our [security] staff been in here? How much advance work did they do here?"

Ireland has, though, a very serious problem in the form of a massive sovereign debt crisis, worth up to a quarter of a trillion euros, caused by the collapse of a property bubble, and by the European Union's insistence that Irish taxpayers should make good the resulting losses of domestic and European banks.

Mr Obama followed his courtesy call on Irish head of state, President Mary McAleese, with private talks with the prime minister, Mr Enda Kenny.

In comments afterwards, he seemed to offer at least moral support. "What I emphasised is that we want to continue to strengthen the bonds of trade and commerce between our two countries and that we are rooting for Ireland's success and we'll do everything we can to help on the path to recovery." He also paid tribute to the work of Irish people in peacekeeping and in promoting human rights around the world.

"I just wanted to express to the Irish people how inspired we have been by the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland.

"It speaks to the possibility of peace and people in long-standing struggles being able to re-imagine their relationships."

Later that day he addressed a packed open-air gathering in Dublin's College Green, which gave him a welcome that must have reminded him of his inauguration.

In a rousing introduction, Mr Kenny said of his guest: "He doesn't talk about the American dream. He is the American dream."

Mr Obama's address dwelled on the shared heritage and resilience of Irish and Americans, and of his faith that both would surmount their current economic difficulties. "Is féidir linn," he concluded - Irish for "yes we can".

The presidential party was due to stay in Dublin last night and travel to Britain today.

However, the party was expected to leave earlier than scheduled because of a change in direction of the volcanic ash cloud that came from the erupting volcano in Iceland, the White House said last night.


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

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Pupils in Abu Dhabi are learning the importance of being active, eating well and leading a healthy lifestyle now and throughout adulthood, thanks to a newly launched programme 'Healthy Lifestyle'.

As part of the Healthy Lifestyle programme, specially trained coaches from City Football Schools, along with Healthpoint physicians have visited schools throughout Abu Dhabi to give fun and interactive lessons on working out regularly, making the right food choices, getting enough sleep and staying hydrated, just like their favourite footballers.

Organised by Manchester City FC and Healthpoint, Manchester City FC’s regional healthcare partner and part of Mubadala’s healthcare network, the ‘Healthy Lifestyle’ programme will visit 15 schools, meeting around 1,000 youngsters over the next five months.

Designed to give pupils all the information they need to improve their diet and fitness habits at home, at school and as they grow up, coaches from City Football Schools will work alongside teachers to lead the youngsters through a series of fun, creative and educational classes as well as activities, including playing football and other games.

Dr Mai Ahmed Al Jaber, head of public health at Healthpoint, said: “The programme has different aspects - diet, exercise, sleep and mental well-being. By having a focus on each of those and delivering information in a way that children can absorb easily it can help to address childhood obesity."


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1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

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2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

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