JUST days after it was announced that he will be guest of honour at the University of Limerick in November, staff at Shannon Airport enjoyed an impromptu visit by the former US president, Bill Clinton.
Shortly after 9am on Sunday morning the 42nd president of America strolled into the airport’s bookshop much to the amazement of staff and shoppers.
Dressed in a grey blazer and black round neck sweater, Mr Clinton cut a relaxed figure as he picked out some books and chatted with well-wishers.
“He was mostly looking at books and scarves and things like that,” explained Mike Buckley who works as a ground operator in Shannon Airport and is also a columnist with the Leader’s sister paper, the Limerick Chronicle.
“There was no big thing made of it. A few people spotted him but they were too nervous to go over until cheeky me went over to ask him to stand in for a photograph. Loads of other people approached him then and he posed with them also.”
Mike, who is from Sean Heuston Place in the city, got the go-ahead from both the airport police and the former president’s security team to approach Mr Clinton.
“If you don’t ask you won’t receive. I said: ‘Bill, any chance of a picture’ and he said ‘yeah no problem come in here’. He was very nice – a lovely man.”
According to another airport worker, the former president was passing time while the aircraft he was travelling in from Italy was being refuelled. “There were US troops in the airport on their way back to the States from overseas who were just about to go to their aircraft and they gave him a great reception,” he said.
While in the bookstore, Mr Clinton perused various reading material for about 20 minutes before purchasing a number of books, magazines and papers.
Mr Clinton told the worker that he was stocking up on reading material for his flights as he said he had a month of non-stop campaigning ahead of him before the US election. “He bought a few more paperback fictions and ‘Michael Collins and the making of the Irish State” among others,” he said.
“He shook hands with virtually everybody in the transit lounge - let people get their photographs with him and he and his entourage spent a fair few quid in the Duty Free shop as well,” he added.
Mr Clinton will be the guest of honour at the All-Ireland Scholarship awards ceremony in the University Concert Hall on November 17. Sponsored by JP McManus, the educational bursary provides financial assistance to high achieving students who completed their Leaving Certificate/A Level examinations in 2012.