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Friday 15 November 2019

'Good to be back' - Pence hails Irish roots at start of 3-day visit

Simon Coveney greets US Vice President Mike Pence at Shannon Airport
Simon Coveney greets US Vice President Mike Pence at Shannon Airport

Little did Doonbeg suspect 38 years ago that the American student who pulled pints in Morrissey's and cut turf in a Clare bog would return as US vice-president.

On his first official visit to Ireland as Donald Trump's right-hand man, Mike Pence said he was "thrilled" to stay in the same Clare village where his grandmother was born.

Today, Morrissey's is run by Hugh McNally, a distant cousin.

Privilege

Less than 20 minutes after Air Force Two touched down at Shannon Airport, Mr Pence opened his press briefing by saying: "It is a privilege and an honour to be back on the Emerald Isle."

The Indiana politician is hugely proud of his strong Irish ancestry - so proud that he was accompanied this week by his wife, Karen, his elderly mother, Nancy and his sister, Anne.

It was in Morrissey's - the same pub visited last June by two of Donald Trump's sons - that the former Indiana governor learned to pull a pint of stout 38 years ago.

Hardly surprising, given that Morrissey's is effectively his family pub, albeit owned by a distant cousin.

Mr Pence and his family are expected to visit Morrissey's tonight for a private meal with his Clare relatives.

His first visit to Ireland was in 1981 when, as a student, he researched his Irish roots.

In 2013, he brought his entire family - including his three children - to Ireland for a holiday.

Incredibly, his grandfather, Michael Richard Cawley, taught him nursery rhymes, including Humpty Dumpty, in Irish when looking after him as a child.

Mr Cawley's family hailed from the Sligo-Mayo border.

The Clare connections for Mr Pence come from his grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Maloney.

For Mr McNally, the Clare village's remarkable connections to the top table of US political power is something to be celebrated.

"I just wish it was Mar-a-Lago. We would see them a lot more frequently," he joked.

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