MEMORIES OF RONNIE S BIG DAY IN BALLY
Moneygall in County Offaly is currently preparing for a visitor who they hope will focus the eyes of the world on their small rural community.
The Avondhu region, however, is no stranger to visiting US presidents. Back in 1984 Ballyporeen hosted a visit from then President Ronald Reagan when the village was thronged with secret service men and the world’s media.
After the party and the security teams have packed up what, in reality, can Moneygall expect from the visit of President Barack Obama?
The Avondhu this week spoke with Mary O’Farrell former owner of the now closed Ronald Reagan Bar in Ballyporeen and asked – “What was it like to have a president in your village?”
MONEY COULDN’T BUY
“It was something that money couldn’t buy. To have the president of the United States in your village is one thing but to know that his ancestors lived here is something very unique.
"For Ballyporeen, like Moneygall the president’s visit was preceded by the secret service who checked that everything was going to be ok and worked out just how long the president would stay. The White House Chief of Staff, James Baker met with members of the community council and the local curate and then the preparations began,” Mary told The Avondhu.
ENJOYED THEIR TIME
However, it is the day that the president arrives that Mary feels the people of Moneygall will see just how important their village will become.
“The secret service checked under the manhole covers for bombs, there were snipers on the roofs of many of the buildings in the village and everywhere you turned there was someone with a gun.
"However, when President Reagan arrived all of these security measures were forgotten. He walked around the village and came into the pub, I remember how relaxed the president and Mrs Reagan were and they really seemed to enjoy the time they spent in Ballyporeen,” Mary continued.
President Reagan spent over two hours in the south Tipp village but what was it like when the president, the secret service and the world’s media left the village?
“Well, firstly, we never expected the president to stay so long, his staff kept saying ‘It’s time to go Mr President’ and he would ignore them. I have heard that President Obama will spend only five hours in the country, I hope that he will spend most of his time in Moneygall.
"After all the excitement had died down Ballyporeen did very well for a few years. The spotlight was on the village for awhile and we even got a new telephone system which was top of the range at the time. We have the visitors centre and some cafes and more B & Bs opened up but today we are once again a quiet Tipperary village,” Mary O’Farrell said.
What advice would Mary have for the people of Moneygall?
“Have a great time, this is your village and the eyes of the world will be on you for a short time. Odds are that you may never have another president from your village so make the most of the fame while it lasts. Above all, just enjoy the day,” Mary concluded.
The O’Farrell family were at the time credited with arousing interest in the presidential connection with Ballyporeen and making the visit possible. Ronald Reagan was not, of course, the only US president to visit somewhere within The Avondhu circulation area over the past 50 years.
Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States and the only one to resign from office, visited Kilfrush House near Knocklong in south Limerick in October 1970. Nixon made several brief stops to greet members of the crowd during the visit including JP ‘Rory’ Liddy, the then Mayor of Limerick.
Thursday 21st April 6:41pm