The time Nixon came to call on us -- and reached out to a little girl
Published 29/09/2010 | 05:00
IT IS the presidential visit that hardly anybody remembers, overshadowed in collective consciousness by John F Kennedy's trip to Ireland.
But these pictures serve as a reminder that 40 years ago this week, another American president arrived in Ireland on a State visit.
Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States and the only one to resign, touched down at Shannon Airport on October 3, 1970.
He stayed in Kilfrush House, Co Limerick, for two nights while visiting Kildare and Dublin, all the while mobbed by crowds in their hundreds.
Among those who saw him was Pat O'Mahony, then a nine-year-old schoolboy, who has now produced a radio documentary on the event.
"You don't think of Richard Nixon as being laid back and funny, but that's certainly how he is remembered during the visit.
"For instance, the Taoiseach at the time, Jack Lynch, greeted Nixon with a 'Cead Mile Failte' at Shannon Airport.
"Nixon, not understanding Irish, joked that he wasn't going to say anything about Lynch because 'I don't know what he said about me'."
Mr O'Mahony interviewed eyewitnesses, historians, and people who looked after the Nixon's during the trip.
He said he was struck by the varying levels of security the president enjoyed. "I spoke to staff in Kilfrush House where Nixon stayed and they said the security for the president was unbelievable.
They had secret service men stationed at the top and the bottom of the stairs.
Yet Nixon did mix with ordinary Irish people, including the documentary maker's late father Michael O'Mahony and younger sister Loretta (then 4), photographed with Nixon and wife Pat in Kildare town.
Richard and Pat Nixon had stopped off in the town after visiting Timahoe in north Kildare, where the president's Quaker ancestors Thomas and Sarah Milhous lived before they left for Pennsylvania in 1729.
"President Nixon and his wife Pat had their heads out of the car when my dad walked up to their car with my sister Loretta on his back. Amazingly, the secret service men let them through and a photographer snapped Nixon reaching across to shake Loretta's hand," said O'Mahony.
- 'The Forgotten Visit' airs on RTE Radio One on Saturday at 6.05pm