Obama 'comes home' to Ireland

US president Barack Obama took to the stage in Dublin today in front of a crowd of 25,000 claiming he was home.

"My name is Barack Obama, of the Moneygall Obamas and I've come home to find the apostrophe we lost somewhere along the way," he said.

The Stars and Stripes flew beside the Irish Tricolour above the landmark headquarters of Bank of Ireland on College Green, where the president was met by huge cheers of "Obama, Obama" - the same spot where President Bill Clinton wooed onlookers in 1995.

The president addressed the crowds from behind a specially-constructed three-sided bullet-proof glass structure.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny introduced the president, saying: "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that Ireland is a place where all things are possible ... today is your answer."

Mr Kenny said: "Today the 44th American president comes home."

Mr Obama paid tribute to late taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, who died last week as the Queen visited Ireland in the first state visit of a reigning British monarch to the Republic.

He said Ireland and America were bound by history, friendship and shared values.

"Never has a nation so small inspired so much in another," he said.

Mr Obama again drew huge cheers by speaking Irish: "Ta athas orm le bheith in Eireann (I'm happy to be in Ireland)."

He said he wished somebody had traced his Irish roots when he was a politician in Chicago, which he dubbed the Irish capital of the mid-west.

He revealed he craved a slot in the local St Patrick's Day parade, only to be given the final place ahead of the street cleaners.

"I bet those parade organisers are watching TV today and feeling kind of bad because this is a parade right here," he said.

The president visited his ancestral homeland in the Irish Midlands earlier and entertained distant relatives as they enjoyed a drink in a local bar in Moneygall.

He said: "I feel even more at home after that pint that I had. I feel even warmer."

The president praised the work involved in achieving peace in Northern Ireland.

"America will stand by you always in your pursuit of peace," he said.

"Ireland, you need to understand that you have already passed the world's highest hopes."

He added: "A dream has turned to a reality because of the work of this nation."

The president met Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness before making the speech.

In a resounding address, the president said: "This little country that inspired the biggest things - your best days are still ahead of you."

The president said the US and Ireland had a centuries-old relationship.

"And that's why I can come here today, as American president, and reaffirm these bonds of affection," he said.

After a 24-minute speech, the president went down from the stage and shook hands and chatted with well-wishers lucky enough to be at the front of the massive crowds.