The Irish-American vote in the USA has traditionally been a very important sector of the electorate that politicians like to court. And what better way to do this than make a stop in Dublin, or some ancestral homeland and have a scoop in the local pub. We’ve put together a list of former and current American presidents who have stopped into an Irish pub either while they were serving, or before or after their terms.
1. John F Kennedy
Kennedy’s 1963 visit to Ireland is was a celebration by the Irish of having one of their own in the White House. Kennedy spent several days in the country, visiting Galway, his ancestral home in Wexford, and addressing the Dáil. But, he didn’t visit a pub on this occasion. He did, as a young journalist, make a visit to Mulligans pub on Poolbeg street in the company of Irish Press news editor Jack Grealish in 1947. Paddy Flynn, a barman at the time remembered that Kennedy drank a bottle of lager. The pub began to get more notoriety and trade when Kennedy became president. More information about his visit to Mulligans can be found in the book ‘Mulligans, Grand old pub of Poolbeg street’ by Declan Dunne.
JFK also apparently visited Ryans of Parkgate street according to their website.
2. Jimmy Carter
We don’t know a huge amount this visit, but Carter was photographed in McGrattans bar on Baggot street in 1996. The pub has a dining area, so we presume Carter and his wife Rosaleen were having something to eat. There were no cameras around, so we don’t know if he had a Guinness or not.
3. Ronald Reagan
Then president, Ronald Reagan, paid a visit in 1984 to Ballyporeen, Co.Tipperary, where some of his Irish ancestors hailed from. Customary as it is for American presidents to have a pint in an Irish pub when they visit, his advance team found that O’Farrells pub in the village had a room named after the President, ‘The Ronald Reagan salon’. Reagan visited and sipped a pint of Smithwicks and off he went back on the campaign trail. The bar was later renamed ‘Ronald Reagan’s’ in his honour.
Some years later, June 2004, a a member of the board of trustees of the Reagan foundation and museum paid a visit back to Ballyporeen to find that the pub was closed and up for sale. He offered the owners $100,000 and the pub was now in the possession of the Reagan foundation. They packed up all the paraphernalia, furniture, and other bits and sent it to California to be put on display in the Reagan foundation museum. It’s still there today with the same bar, stools, and other fixtures. The O’Farrell family went to the unveiling of the relocated bar and poured the first pint of Smithwicks from the taps.
4. Bill Clinton
During the Northern Irish peace process Bill Clinton paid a visit to the North and South of the border. While in Dublin he visited Cassidys pub on Camden street. The pub was thronged with people and one person noted “He had a couple of pints up at the bar there and he met everybody. I shook hands with him three times!”. The name Cassidy related to Clinton’s mothers maiden name, so the choice of pub was fitting.
Clinton had a half pint of Murphys, said sláinte, and shook the barman’s hand.
Clinton also stopped into The Church on Jervis street for some food after his terms in office.
Clinton was also brought to Bertie Ahern’s local, Fagans in Drumcondra in September 1998. At 4.30pm Clinto nwas asked if it was a bit early for a drink. He replied “It’s never too early for a pint”. Link.
5. Barrack Obama
The most recent US President to visit Ireland, Barrack Obama paid a visit to his ancestral home of Moneygall, where he had a pint in Ollie Hayes pub. Obama teased the barman for a while on whether he was properly qualified to pour his pint, took a sip, and then called for another one for the ambassador.
His wife, Michelle also went to Finnegans pub in Dalkey, with her children and Bono.
6. George HW Bush
On a trip to Dublin in 1983, then vice president and future president George HW Bush paid a visit to Ryans of Parkgate street (Bongo Ryans). It was after an Independence day party. Source. You can see photos of Bush’s visit via this link.
7. George W Bush
Ryans of Parkgate street once again feature. The pubs website history notes that both Bushs drank in Ryans, but we can’t find any newspaper articles about it.
It’s pretty impressive that Bongo Ryan’s of Parkgate street have had 3 American presidents through their doors. Is that more than any pub in the world outside of the USA?
While Richard Nixon did visit Ireland, he never visited a pub. He did have this to say of the Irish on the Watergate tapes “The Irish have certain– for example the Irish can’t drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually ever Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish.”