DUBLIN, Ireland - Everybody knows that presidential hopeful Barack Obama is blessed with the gift of gab. Turns out it might be the Irish in him.

The junior senator from Illinois, seeking the Democratic nomination for the White House, has made much of his background as the son of a Kenyan father and American mother.

Far less publicized is the European side of his family tree - including, new research has found, a great-great-great grandfather from the heart of Ireland.

A genealogy Web site, Ancestry-.com, has spent months looking to pin down Obama's ancestors - including Fulmouth Kearney, who immigrated to the United States at 19 and has ties to Obama's Kansas-reared mother, Ann Dunham.

Kearney is a common name in Ireland with roots in many counties. But the Utah-based organization got lucky when it made a call in March to Canon Stephen Neill, a parish priest from the Anglican-affiliated Church of Ireland.

In an index Neill found Joseph Kearney, Fulmouth's father, a cobbler in the village of Moneygall, County Offaly - which, back then was known as King's County.

Neill hadn't been told by Ancestry.com researchers why they wanted to know about the Kearneys of Moneygall. When he called them weeks later with his find, he was surprised to learn that Fulmouth was an ancestor of the rising star.

"Everyone here says he's going to have to call himself O'Bama from now on," Neill said in an interview. The village today is home to about 300 people, and has two pubs, a Catholic church, and a Gaelic sports ground.

Obama could put it on the tourist map. Locals have identified the spot where Joseph Kearney's shoe shop once stood.

Neill said there are few, if any, Kearneys in the area today, citing parish records that say family members gradually emigrated to America from the 1790s to the 1850s.

But there are the Healys, who intermarried with the Kearneys back in the 1760s, and who have pinpointed the old Kearney family lands - currently earmarked for a new state-funded housing project.

Retired farmer John Healy, 69, says the field in question "has always been known as Kearney's Gardens, and when I was growing up this is where the sunken remains of the house of the shoemaker Joseph Kearney, Fulmouth's father, lived and worked."

So, if Obama does win the Democratic nomination and election to become the 44th president, he would be the 16th with Irish ancestry.

Since documenting the Moneygall link to Fulmouth, Neill has been inundated with calls from the Irish and international media - but, so far, not a peep from the Obama camp.

"There's been a deafening silence," Neill said.

"Maybe they don't want to be seen cynically capitalizing on this, but it seems strange not to have any comment on it.

"He's played the Kenyan link strongly, so why not the Irish link?" *