Lynne Kelleher meticulously unearths Irish ties to the White House in this political book

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The Green and White House: Ireland and American Presidents Lynne Kelleher Black & White Publishing, £17.99

Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the Irish ancestry of a plethora of US presidents, especially those who’ve come calling since John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s visit in 1963.

Lynn Kelleher’s exhaustive research distills the history of Irish-American relations into a readable narrative, opening with the detective work of Megan Smolenyak, Who do you think you are? fame, tracking Barack Obama’s Irish ancestry from the broken Ohio gravestone to Moneygall, and confirmation that Obama was descended from the local Kearney family.

A fourth cousin of JFK puts the “special relationship” between Ireland and the United States into context: “I always remember that in the living room at home you had the picture of the Sacred Heart and you had the picture of Robert and John Fitzgerald Kennedy both side by side.

Of course, not all American presidents come from the Irish Catholic tradition. In the Republic we sometimes tend to ignore the Ulster Scots, perhaps because they were less likely to return and the political classes in Northern Ireland did not exploit this connection.

“Twenty-three of the 46 American presidents have claimed, or have claimed for them, a connection to Ireland,” former Irish Ambassador to Washington Seán Donlon says in the foreword. “Ireland is fortunate to have had and continues to have American presidents who have become instruments of Irish politics,” he added.

Richard Milhous Nixon, whose Quaker parents were found at Timahoe in County Kildare, had the good grace to admit that as far as his Irish ancestry is concerned, “in the case of Mrs (Pat) Nixon, the evidence is much clearer.

Kelleher has meticulously researched the “Irish connection” in the White House, and this book is a must for anyone wishing to understand that relationship and those who made it possible.


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