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Incident at Ballybunion

Late in the afternoon, Clinton's motorcade finally pulled into Ballybunion. "There must have been hundreds of people there to greet me," he recalled. "I was so incredibly touched by their warmth and support." Gamely, he posed for photographs by the statue, which, especially in its plaster-of-paris-and-boot-polish state, bore only the slightest resemblance to the leader of the free world. Clinton praised it nonetheless. "I could not believe how wonderful the exquisite sculpture by Cork artist Sean McCarthy was," he gushed to T&L Golf. "I was just delighted with it."

The people of Ballybunion were thrilled. According to Quilter, one elderly woman fainted after her presidential handshake. Quilter himself spent the afternoon sequestered in a nearby bar, cackling and crowing-- but when he went outside to view his triumph, he couldn't get anywhere near the man. "The street was so mobbed, I just went back inside to watch it on television," he says. Fifty-five minutes after he'd arrived, Clinton went the way of most American golfers--out of town--and the statue was quickly removed before it had a chance to disintegrate.

Three years have passed since Clinton's fairy tale visit to Ballybunion, and, alas, not much has changed. The golf course continues to thrive but not so the village--most visitors still skip town from the eighteenth green. "Before Clinton came, we were told that Ballybunion wouldn't be able to hold the tourists," grouses one local woman, "but it's worse that business has gotten."

Ironically, one reason might well be the statue, which was indeed eventually cast in bronze and permanently installed in the village square. Ballybunion's hoteliers and bar owners are discovering, to their surprise, that many and maybe even most of those would-be American tourists are no fans of the United States' forty-second president. "You wouldn't believe the venom," Daniel Curran said recently, leaning over the bar of the Presidents Inn, which he opened two years ago. "They hate him!" In fact, the night before, Curran's daughter, Anne Marie, had tried to defend Clinton to a group of Americans. "You don't forgive!" the twenty-two-year-old shouted.

"We do forgive, but we don't forget that he lied to the American people!" returned one of the visitors.

"Sure, he's the best president you ever had," Curran interjected. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!"

"I am without sin!" announced another visitor, producing a business card as evidence. He was a priest.

Curran's daughter was incredulous: "Jesus, what kind of a priest flashes his card?"

Such scenes have become familiar of an evening in Ballybunion. "Republicans are chipping away at Clinton all the time when they come here," Quilter chuckles. "It drives them mad."


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