When I heard the words “Barack Obama Plaza”, images of photo zones, interactive history of his ancestry and commemorative photos came to mind. Instead, when I visited for the first time today, I arrived at a rest stop.
The ground floor is full of different eating venues, from Supermacs to Tim Hortons. All very well if you need a rest on the road to Limerick. It’s very conveniently located next to the motorway. The second floor is a “visitor centre” and by visitor centre they mean one room that was clearly put there as an after thought to justify calling it Barack Obama Plaza.
Although the ground floor was full of people eating, the visitor centre was empty and I had it to myself. It took me about 5 minutes to walk around and read the posters.There are no photo zones and it’s all a bit bland. I went back to my car and off to the actual village of Moneygall.
My main problem with the Plaza is that Barack Obama had nothing to do with it. He has never visited it, didn’t open it, nothing. I understand that business is business but here is a classic example of the exploitation of an association.
I took the 3 minute drive into the village of Moneygall.
Moneygall village is a beautifully kept village and the people obviously very proud of their association with President Obama. All along the street you can see the Irish and American flags. Near the end of the village is the ancestral home of President Obama. I was disappointed to find that the house is currently closed as is the Obama cafe next door. Instead of having an eye sore of a rest stop pretending to be an Obama visitor centre, wouldn’t it be lovely to visit the house and have all the need to know information inside? I believe this won’t be happening due to financial restrictions. During my visit, the village was eerily quiet with very few people to be seen. Visitors are clearly not making the 3 minute car journey from the Plaza to the village and as a result the businesses of the village are suffering. I find that most disappointing because with the right injection of funds, and the correct marketing, Moneygall village has everything you need to provide a nice, genuine visit.
Overall, I was very disappointed with my visit to the Barack Obama Plaza. The only good point is that it is free to go to the visitor centre so at least I can’t complain that I wasted my money. I wouldn’t recommend a visit but if the ancestral house reopens, it may be worth a small detour.