Bill Clinton has told of his hope that the Irish people will never again be forced to endure the hardship of another crippling financial crisis.
The former US President was speaking at a charity event in Dublin last night (Wed) during a whistle-stop visit to Ireland. He also met with Prime Minister Enda Kenny and spoke at the Clinton Center at University College Dublin.
The event, organised by Philanthropy Ireland, was attended by approximately 250 leading figures from the worlds of business, politics, academia and charity organisations. He also met Rory McIlroy and Bono during his visit and will play golf with McIlroy, businessman Denis O’Brien and incoming Ireland Fund chairman John FitzPatrick on Thursday..
It was Clinton's third speaking engagement in as many years and was mostly facilitated by the billionaire Irish tycoon and Digicel telecoms group chairman, Denis O'Brien.
Clinton played a key part in the Peace Process during his presidency, praised the Irish government during his keynote address for its generosity to his Foundation when he was seeking funds to combat AIDS in Africa.
He said:"The first country that offered to give me money was Ireland. You should be pretty proud of that."
Guests - who included hotelier and chairman of the American Ireland fund, John Fitzpatrick, and Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin - were asked to pledge their support to the 'One Per Cent Difference' campaign, which encourages individuals and companies to donate one per cent of their time or income to a cause or project of their choice.
But the former President spoke of his own hope that Irish people would never again starve in the street because of a dire financial collapse.
He said:"I hope to God you will never have to live through another financial crisis like this, but if you did have one even less severe, you wouldn't want people starving in the street or going without basic medical care or mental health services or support for their children."
According to The Irish Times, the average speaking fee for Clinton last year was close to $200,000, although accounts filed in the US reveal he has charged far more than this at some corporate speaking engagements.
Analysis by CNN also showed Clinton's incredible earning power on the international lecture circuit, where he pulled in an astonishing $17million last year alone from just 73 speeches.
Last year Clinton delivered the keynote address at the annual conference in Cork of the Worldwide Ireland Funds, whose directors include Sir Anthony O'Reilly and Loretta Brennan Glucksman.
The previous year he was flown over to Ireland on tycoon O'Brien's private jet to give a speech at the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin Castle.
Clinton and O'Brien formed a close working relationship in Haiti where the ex-President acted as UN special envoy, and where O'Brien's firm, Digicel, has become the impoverished Caribbean country's largest-ever foreign investor - injecting $600 million into an economy ravaged by the 2010 earthquake.
Clinton has previously written glowingly about O'Brien's charitable work in 'Time' magazine and last year he named the entrepreneur a 'Clinton Global Citizen' under an awards scheme linked to the former President's think-tank, 'The Clinton Global Initiative'.