"Obama is Irish" at the Starry Plough Now a Major YouTube Hit

by Becky O'Malley
Friday October 24, 2008 - 12:41:00 PM

Shay Black is an Irish musician who lives in Oakland just a few blocks from the Planet office on Shattuck. He has led an Irish music session in the nearby Starry Plough every Sunday for the last thirteen years. Recently, he's become a YouTube celebrity. Last month, a jolly video starring Shay was made at the Plough, posted on YouTube and now has 250,000 hits. It's a cover of a song originally written in Ireland which reclaims Barack Obama's Irish roots. Here's the first verse: 

"O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara  

There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama  

From the old Blarney Stone to the green Hill of Tara 

There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama."  

The Corrigan Brothers, who wrote it, hail from Limerick, Ireland, where earlier this year research into genealogical records unearthed the fact that Barack Obama had an Irish ancestor on his mother's side, Fulmuth Kearney, who emigrated from Ireland to Chicago just after the Great Famine in 1850. They put their version up on YouTube as a joke, where Shay Black discovered it. 

Black added some verses of his own, rounded up a few of the regulars at the Plough to sing along, and created an instant hit. He credited the Corrigans, but they weren't happy with the way it was done, and battling press releases have ensued, with ample coverage in the Irish press. The Corrigans asked Shay to take his video down, but he refused, issuing this statement: 

“Removing the song from YouTube now would remove all the links [to the video] that people are forwarding. For whatever reason, the song has tapped into a vein that is actually becoming a vibrant political movement amongst white Irish folks who may have found it difficult to vote for a black man. Forty six million people in the United States say they are ‘Irish’ and the song has made it easier to identify Obama as actually being Irish. Like JFK. I have been told that this song is the cause of a paradigm shift that could actually tip the balance in swing states in the election.” 

Whether it's a game-changer or not, the song, in all its iterations, is a big hit in some quarters, especially among Irish-American Obama fans. However, the Berkeley O'Malleys have asked that their name be substituted into the first verse, and that O'Reilly be deleted, since the O'Reillys, or at least Bill O'Reilly, haven't been looking too good lately.