DUNDALK Town Councillor Eamonn O'Boyle has expressed his delight at the news that Bill Clinton will be returning to the area in the future but feels a "serious opportunity" was missed out on by the council's failure to invite him here for the 10th anniversary of his visit on December 12 2000, which was celebrated at the weekend.
A letter sent by the former US President to Sinn Fin president Gerry Adams last week said that Mr Clinton looked forward to seeing Dundalk again "soon".
It was Cllr O'Boyle who first proposed to invite Mr Clinton and his family back to Dundalk to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his visit here in December 2000. He believes his proposal to the council in October 2009 was blocked because of party politics but he subsequently welcomed the decision by Town Centre Commercial Manager Andrew Mawhinney to hold an event in Mr Clinton's honour at the weekend and says he is delighted to hear that the former US President will be returning here in the future.
Speaking about the matter, the Fine Gael man said: "When I proposed in October 2009, that Dundalk Town Council should honour President and Mrs Clinton by inviting them to visit our town to commemorate the 10th anniversary of their tumultuous welcome to Dundalk, I did so in the belief that the golden couple were touched in a special way by the incredible warmth and generosity of the Dundalk community towards them and that they would look forward to seeing Dundalk again.
"I had hoped at that time, some 15 months before the anniversary, that the feelings of the people of Dundalk would find a resonance with the elected representatives of the people of Dundalk. I had thought that my proposal would have been willingly grasped by the Council; that an invitation/welcoming committee would have been expeditiously organised; that maximum use would have been made of our former Foreign Minister and acknowledged close friend of the Clintons and of the obvious high regard in which Mr Daniel M Rooney, the current US Ambassador to Ireland, holds Dundalk and that the golden couple would have come here to Dundalk to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their momentous visit.
"To mark the undoubted international public relations 'clout' of the occasion, I felt that we could possibly consider changing the name of one of the dozen or so thoroughfares/places which Dundalk town has named in honour of the late Sir James Hamilton and his family members, to honour the golden couple and thereby make the focus of the visit the 'cutting of the ribbon' on the renamed thoroughfare.
"Regrettably, my proposal was killed by opposition from Fianna Fil and the Green Party and hence no invitation/welcoming committee was created. The Ambassador was not approached.
"It is very much to the credit of our Town Centre Commercial Manager, Mr. Andrew Mawhinney, that he is making such a "good fist" of the 10th anniversary celebrations, but Andrew would be the first to admit that these are not a patch on what could have been, had the golden couple been in attendance.
"I am pleased to see that, in his response to Gerry Adams, President Bill Clinton has made it abundantly clear what would have happened if my proposal in October 2009 to invite former US President Bill Clinton, his wife, Hilary and their daughter, Chelsea had been wholeheartedly grasped by Dundalk Town Council.
"However, it may yet be possible to plan for an 11th, 12th or 15th Anniversary return visit, but it is a great pity about the 10th, which would have been the big one. A serious opportunity to market Dundalk internationally has been lost. Tut tut!"