Donegal County Council is making an audacious move to increase tourism to the county by inviting one potential visitor.
At Monday’s monthly meeting of the council after councillors discussed the future of former barracks at Letterkenny and Lifford, it was the mention of Barack which could give the county’s tourism industry a massive boost.
The council passed a motion to invite the President of the United States to Donegal when he comes to Ireland at the end of May and is to write to the US embassy to extend the invitation.
The President announced his intention to visit Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day and will be here form May 22nd to 24th. The motion to invite the President was proposed by Councillor Ciaran Brogan who cited the president’s desire to visit an Irish castle when he comes to the country. “Where would be more fitting than Glenveagh?” the councillor asked.
He also stressed the castle’s links to the US as further cause to make the suggestion a credible one. It was the American Henry McIlhenny, whose grandfather was from Milford, who handed the estate over to the Irish state in 1983. McIlhenny had bought the estate in 1937 from fellow American, Professor Arthur Kingsley Porter of Harvard University who had acquired the estate in 1929.
McIlhenny’s grandfather made a fortune from inventing the gasmeter and another relative created Tabasco sauce.
Glenveagh’s American links also extend to the founder George Adair who came from Laois but had made his fortune in the US. Adair had bought the 40,000 acre estate by 1859 and became notorious for evicting over 244 tenants in the Derryveagh Evictions of 1861.
However it was under McIlhenny’s ownership that Glenveagh earned its reputation as an American retreat in one of the most beautiful and isolated parts of Europe. McIlhenny loved to entertain and visitors to Glenveagh included Greta Garbo, Rosemary Clooney, Yeheudi Menuin, and George Melly.
If the council is successful in inviting the President Glenveagh could be about to relive its days of American glitz and glamour.
Cllr Brogan said a visit from the American President would be a huge boost to tourism in Donegal. “The fact that we have the American link there it would strike a chord,” he said. “We have had an Irish cabinet meeting there recently and Glenveagh Castle is well able to handle a visit by an American president.”