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unprecedented security for reagan's trip to tipp

THE Government triggered an almost unprecedented security operation for the visit of President Ronald Reagan to Ireland in 1984.

The former film star, handed the head of state role by the American electorate three years earlier, was given an extra spur to pencil in Ireland for an upcoming European tour when genealogists uncovered his family roots in Co Tipperary.

The stage was set for a tearful homecoming to the small town of Ballyporeen, on top of a programme of official events in Dublin and other places.

The late president's great-grandfather Michael Regan (the spelling of the surname was changed later) was baptised in Ballyporeen in 1829, but went on to take the emigration trail in search of success, quitting the area in the middle of the 19th Century and heading first to London and later to the United States.

The established presidential link was enough to generate a huge wave of enthusiasm in Co Tipperary and beyond.

The name of the local family-run pub was soon changed to the Ronald Reagan Lounge, samples of the local soil were put on sale and a special visit to the area by the president was laid on.

But not everyone approved - a point confirmed by just-released official documents for 1984.

Political opposition to US overseas policies of that period, particularly in Central America, ran high, and when Reagan called in at Ballyporeen more than 500 noisy protesters had to be confined behind barriers.

Objectors even formed a Ronald Reagan reception committee to coordinate protests.

"We promise to harass him wherever he sets foot in Ireland," they said.


There was also resistance to a decision by the National University of Ireland to confer an honorary degree.

But Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald brushed aside all opposition to the conferral.

While in Dublin, Reagan delivered an address to a joint session of the Oireachtas.

First Lady Nancy Reagan (above) was present, with the only protest being staged by Proinsias de Rossa and Tomas Mac Giolla of the Workers Party and independent Tony Gregory, who walked out when the president appeared.

At a subsequent Dublin Castle dinner, a note in the menu warned caterers: "Re Prawns Meuniere - not too much butter for President Reagan."