seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

Ronald Reagan Visits His Ancestral Home in Ballyporeen

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reagan-visits-ballyporeen-1984U.S. President Ronald Reagan visits his ancestral home in Ballyporeen, County Tipperary, on June 3, 1984. Reagan’s great-grandfather, Michael Regan, who later changed the spelling of his name, is baptised in the village in 1829. Around 1851, after the Great Famine, he emigrates to London and ultimately the United States in 1857.

Surrounded by throngs of photographers and security people, Reagan slowly makes his way through the tiny village in the bright green hills of County Tipperary. Speaking to 3,000 applauding and cheering visitors gathered under drizzly skies at the main crossroads of Ballyporeen, Reagan explains that until recently he had never known of his roots because his father had been orphaned before reaching the age of six.

“And now,” Reagan tells the exuberant crowd, “thanks to you and the efforts of good people who have dug into the history of a poor immigrant family, I know at last whence I came. And this has given my soul a new contentment. And it is a joyous feeling. It is like coming home after a long journey.”

Reagan, joined by his wife, Nancy, aides, dignitaries, and townspeople worship at the modest Church of the Assumption in Ballyporeen, where his great-grandfather was supposedly baptized in 1829.

After the service, Reagan makes his way down Church Street, shaking the hands of well-wishers. Amid the handshaking, a marching bagpipe corps plays A Nation Once Again and other patriotic tunes.

At the town center, the Reagans visit the pub run by John O’Farrell, who first capitalizes on the news of the President’s lineage and names his establishment “The Ronald Reagan” in 1981. Reagan unveils a plaque for the President Reagan tourist center that is to be built here. While the building housing the pub still stands, the pub closes in 2004 and the following year its fittings and external signage are transported to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, where it still stands today.

There is some opposition to Reagan’s visit to Ireland. Authorities keep approximately 600 protesters behind barriers on the outskirts of the village and they are not permitted into the village until after the presidential party had departed. The main focus of the protesters is toward the Reagan administration’s foreign policy, in particular its support of the Contras in Nicaragua.

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