MILLIONAIRE businessman JP McManus has said that former US president Bill Clinton is the “ideal man” to present his All Ireland Scholarship awards in Limerick this Saturday.
Speaking to Limerick Leader editor Alan English in an exclusive, in-depth interview to run in this weekend’s newspaper, Mr McManus joked that he had secured the services of the two-time president to present the awards at the weekend ceremony in the University Concert Hall “with difficulty”.
The racing magnate said he had asked Mr Clinton because the awards are a 32-county scheme and “he had a lot to do with the peace process in Ireland. So I felt he was the ideal man to get”.
Mr McManus explained how he got one of the most sought-after speakers in the world to come to the city.
“I did it with the help of friends. I got a friend of mine to make an enquiry.
“He (Clinton) was given a few days that would work for us, so he picked November 17, which clashes with the Paddy Power meeting at Cheltenham. I said to myself, ‘Why did I include that date?’ But to work for him, it had to be that. He’s in Europe, flying around, and this is an extra pitstop,” added Mr McManus.
Mr Clinton is due to appear at the invite-only event this Saturday morning. Security arrangements are still being finalised, but sources have stressed that the event is a private one, and not open to the public.
An advance team from the former president’s office - including his security detail - are due to visit Limerick this Wednesday to hammer out those arrangements, but it appears unlikely that the general public will get a glimpse of the charismatic former president during his fleeting visit to the city.
Some 600 invited guests will witness Mr Clinton present 125 lucky students with their bursaries at the event in UL.
It will be Mr Clinton’s second visit to Limerick, with the 42nd President of the United States giving a speech to upwards of 40,000 people on O’Connell Street in September 1998, part of a two-day visit here that year.
Mr McManus has previously welcomed taoiseach Enda Kenny and former president Mary McAleese to the event, which awards scholarships worth €6,750 to the lucky students while they are in university.
Castletroy College student Richard Kantsevitch - now in Trinity College - and Coláiste Íde agus Iosef student Jemima McCarthy, now studying in NUI Galway, are among the recipients.
The scholarships were established in 2008, with Mr McManus contributing a total of €32 million to the scheme, from which over 1,300 students from the 32 counties will benefit.