"His address came midway through a four-country European tour during which he's connected with his unlikely Irish roots..."
The author either meant "unlikely"as in objectionable or unlike: "Wow, Obama doesn't come across as a descendent of these common folks" (as they are portrayed in this NPR article); or "unlikely" as in highly improbable: "Black people don't have Irish ancestors, you silly goose!"
If the author intended the former, it's hard to see how that deserves mention in an article that's not about his ancestry or his personal American Dream narrative of working himself up from hardscrabble roots to greatness. If the author meant the latter, I think it shows our collective hesitation to see even a non-white-looking person who we KNOW is half white as truly American. I mean, how uncommon and unlikely is it really for an American of any race to have Irish ancestors?