BARACK Obama may have been the most photographed man on the planet this week, but coming in a close second was a man with strong County Limerick connections.
Chief Justice of the USA, John G Roberts, who administered the oath of office to President Barack Obama on the steps of the US Capitol building both in 2009 and again this week, has spent several holidays in both Knocklong and Charleville.
His mother-in-law, Kathleen O’Sullivan (nee O’Carroll) hails from Newtownbarry, Charleville and both he and his wife Jane have a holiday home in Knocklong.
“We have had a few hooleys there – a song and dance,” Jane’s uncle Nicholas told the Limerick Leader this week.
“The way it happened was, I was going racing up the country and I saw these houses up for sale so I rang the sisters and told them. It was decided then to buy one as a holiday home,” he explained.
Both the chief justice and Jane have stayed at Nicholas’ home in Charleville and enjoyed a barbecue at Nicholas’ daughter Mary’s house, close-by.
“We had an impromptu barbecue here one summer and they were on holidays at the time. We had a great night,” Mary explained.
“He is very nice - very down to earth,” said Mary of the chief justice.
“We would have been very close to Jane growing up. She spent a lot of her summers here. She would have used Ireland as a base and stayed with us when she went hitch-hiking around Europe – she is the adventurous type.”
Chief Justice Roberts was the centre of attention this week when an estimated 800,000 people gathered in Washington DC for the inauguration ceremony and millions more tuned in from around the world via television and the internet.
However, on his downtime the chief justice likes nothing better than a round of golf and going to see a hurling match when he is in Ireland.
In 2008, Nicholas availed of the opportunity to take the chief justice – who always travels with two security details - to Semple Stadium for the Cork and Galway All-Ireland senior hurling qualifier.
“He had one of the secret service with him, and during the game the secret service man’s phone rang and it was his wife. He said to her: ‘I’m watching one of the greatest games’,” said Nicholas.
Kathleen O’Carroll left Charleville in the 1950s and settled in New York, where she met and married John Sullivan of Kerry ancestry. They had one son and three daughters, one of whom is Jane, wife of the chief justice.
Jane, who qualified with a law degree from Georgetown University Law Centre, met her future husband in the late 1980s.
They married in 1996 and have two children, Jack and Josephine. Jane was in Charleville last September to visit Nicholas’ wife Philomena who has sadly since passed.
“Jane happened to be Dublin at John Bruton’s daughter’s wedding and about a week before Phil died she came down on the train and she was here with us. Phil was very fond of Jane and Jane was very fond of Phil,” said Nicholas.
In an interview with Niall O’Dowd in 2009 Jane said her husband loves his trips to Ireland.
“The way to his heart was through the golf. Last summer we didn’t get any golfing, we hiked the Glen of Aherlow; there are many things to do there, it’s fabulous. We came to Ireland from Austria, and we did hiking there, but the hiking in Ireland is wilder; there’s hardly anybody out there, and it’s just us and the sheep.”