Trinity College Dublin welcomed US First Lady, Michelle Obama and her two daughters, Sasha and Malia to visit the Old Library today. The leading Irish university was the first visit as part of their itinerary in Ireland.
Welcoming the Obamas, Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast said:
“We are delighted to welcome the US First Lady and daughters, to Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university which has produced some of the world’s great minds across the sciences and the humanities, including two Nobel Laureates, Samuel Beckett in literature and Ernest Walton in science.”
“We are honoured by your visit which goes to strengthen our relations with America. As a country, America has welcomed many of our graduates over the years where a large number of our alumni are living. Our graduates who play a critical role in shaping the knowledge economy are our diaspora.”
“Your visit has particular meaning for us today given the connections we have as an institution with President Obama’s own ancestor, John Kearney who in the 18th century was also a Provost here in the university.”
The Obamas visited Trinity’s Long Room situated in the College’s 18th century Old Library building.
During their visit they were escorted by the Provost where they were shown the Book of Kells, a 9th century gospel manuscript written and illustrated by Columban monks, famous throughout the world for its beautifully intricate decoration and representative of Ireland as a seat of art and learning.
The First Lady and her daughters were also given a presentation on their own family genealogy and connections to Ireland, compiled by one of Trinity’s own spin out heritage and archives companies, Eneclann. It researched President Obama’s Irish ancestry from Falmouth Kearney, President Obama’s second great-grandfather to his seventh great-grandfather, Joseph Kearney. The Kearneys belonged to the Church of Ireland and John Kearney, who was a distant cousin of the President, went on to become the Provost of Trinity College Dublin, and later Bishop of Ossory. He held the Chair of Oratory in Trinity from 1781 until his appointment as Provost in 1799. As part of the genealogy exhibition the Obamas were shown an original 19th century map provided by the National Library of Ireland of lands of Gorthgreen from where some of the family originated.
The Obamas also saw the College Harp − Ireland’s oldest harp dating from the 15th century and on which Ireland’s national emblem is based.
In concluding their tour of the Long Room at Trinity College Dublin, Provost, Dr Prendergast, wished the First Lady and her daughters a pleasant visit and emphasised the need to continue forging innovative research and academic synergies and partnerships with leading universities in America.