Former US President Bill Clinton was the guest of honour at an awards ceremony in Limerick on Saturday – with Irish entrepreneur JP McManus picking up the tab.

Clinton is reported to be earning a quarter of a million dollars for his speech to 600 guests at the University of Limerick event.

Billionaire McManus has refused to comment on newspaper reports that he is picking up the $250,000 tab.

The former US President attracted 40,000 people to the streets of Limerick for his last visit in 1998.

But Saturday’s event was strictly by invitation only and was secured by the US secret service. Parts of the University of Limerick campus will be a no-go area for the duration of the visit according to a report in the Irish Times.

Clinton was due to fly in and out of Shannon airport by private jet with McManus admitting the visit was arranged with ‘difficulty.'

He told the paper: “I did it with the help of friends. I got a friend of mine to make an inquiry.

“He was given a few days that would work for us so he picked November 17th. He is in Europe flying around and this is an extra pit stop.”

A spokeswoman for McManus said they were making ‘absolutely no comment’ on the reports of a $250,000 price tag for the Clinton stopover.