By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – While President Clinton battles the Lewinsky affair, the people of Ballybunion are in a frenzy of activity in preparation for giving him a huge welcome next month.
Though no final itinerary has been announced, the North Kerry seaside resort regards a visit to the town and a round of golf on the famous course there as a certainty.
A larger than life bronze statue of the president in a golfing pose has been ordered for the main approach road, posters have been ordered for all of the 250 lampposts in the town, stars and stripes are to fly from every home and roads are being re-tarred.
Ballybunion missed out when Clinton’s 1995 Irish visit was cut short by a day but this time the town will not take no for an answer.
The local development company aims to raise £25,000 for all the preparations. Last weekend, a busking competition around Ballybunion’s 23 pubs swelled the coffers and a harvest threshing festival with vintage machines to be held later this month will help further.
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On Monday, arguably the most important day of Clinton’s presidency, he gave evidence to Kenneth Starr’s grand jury. However, Ballybunion regards his September 5 visit as the most important day for the resort and a huge presidential welcome is planned.
"His visit will be a worldwide seal of approval for Ballybunion," Frank Quilter, the development company spokesman, said.
The current scandal swirling around Clinton doesn’t worry Quilter.
"It doesn’t make a bit of difference down our way. As far as we are concerned there are thousands of Monica Lewinskys all over the world but there is only one Bill Clinton.
"He is a man in a million as far as we are concerned and we are confident he will weather his current difficulties. The town is over the moon at the prospect of his visit. He’s a very likeable character.
"We have had the secret service people in here four or
five times. This will be the biggest day ever for Ballybunion by a long shot. We’ll never see the like of it again.
"It will be a lot bigger than the Tour de France was for towns on
the east coast earlier this year. We will have President Clinton in our
area for several hours, sure the cyclists went through places in 20 seconds," he said.
Paying for it all
Cash to help get ready for the visit is already rolling in. A builder has donated £2,000 and the 90 businesses in the town are giving a minimum of £100 each.
The seven and a half foot high statue is already being chiseled by Cork artist Sean MacCarthy who has previously sculpted a statue of GAA hurling hero Christy Ring for Cork Airport.
It is widely assumed locally that the exact itinerary for Clinton will not be released for security reasons until several days before he is due to arrive.
He will either stay in Dublin and helicopter down to Limerick or spend a night in Adare Manor.
Clinton’s itinerary is expected to take in a visit to an American factory in the area and there is speculation that he will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Limerick.