Former President Bill Clinton made a return to Ireland over the weekend to take part in the All Ireland Scholarship Awards on Saturday at the University of Limerick. President Clinton was a guest of honor at the event, invited by businessman JP McManus.
Clinton presented 125 students with awards of bursaries worth €6,750 for each year of their studies.
Although the city of Limerick was swept by the US Secret Service for days prior to Clinton’s arrival, his appearance at the awards didn’t cause quite the spectacle his 1998 visit stirred. His appearance, for which he was paid $250,000, was relatively low-key and largely out of the public eye.
The event, which was closed off to the media, was held at the University’s Concert Hall, and had an audience of 600 invited guests, which included the recipients of the awards.
When asked how he managed to get President Clinton to attend the affair, JP McManus said, "I did it with the help of friends. I got a friend of mine to make an enquiry. He's in Europe flying around and this is an extra pit stop.”
Also in attendance at the event were other Irish dignitaries, including Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, Housing Minister Jan O'Sullivan, Fianna Fail Deputy Willie O'Dea, Dr Martin McAleese, and Don Barry, president of the University of Limerick.
Two twins who were recipients of the awards, Eadaoin and Niamh O'Donovan from Fermoy in Co Cork, got to meet with the former President.
"He was lovely and said congratulations to us. It was all very fast," said Niamh.
As part of his speech, Clinton noted how he himself was a scholarship recipient as well during his time at Oxford and Yale.
He also said that Ireland’s recession will end, and the students’ education will endure. "Nobody ever got anywhere by expecting tomorrow to be like yesterday," said Clinton.
After the ceremonies, Clinton and a small number of VIP guests dined in the Bourne Vincent Gallery before the former president was brought back to Shannon Airport, concluding his quick Irish visit.