| ireland, golf and the cigar, too
Bill Clinton on Thursday united his two loves, Ireland and golf, by buying a two-bedroom apartment that overlooks a Ryder Cup venue.
The property comes with full membership for two to the prestigious Kildare Hotel and Country Club — better known as the K Club — 30 miles south-west of Dublin where an 18-hole round costs £190 and first year membership is £60,000.
The former American President, who has called Ireland his second home, struck a deal with an estate agent friend for an £850,000 flat while playing golf in Northern Ireland last weekend.
It is thought to be the first time a former President has bought a property outside the American continent. Clinton, 56, bought flat No 702, The Village, “unseen” through his friend Arthur French. Appropriately the deal was struck between holes at Royal County Down golf course.
French’s son, John Bosco, said: “He was playing with my father. He’d been over and back a bit lately and he was talking about buying a base here and last Sunday evening he decided on the K Club.” The deal is with solicitors and Clinton should be given the apartment keys later in the summer.
His purchase was perhaps swayed by the expansive estate agent description of “an exceptional proposition to any discerning investor” that offers “seclusion and tranquillity from the outside world”.
A chance to buy one of the 60 apartments “provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reside in a prestigious country estate”. However, at 1,350 sq ft the apartment is not on a grand scale.
The complex, where prices range from about £660,000 to £1 million, overlooks a courtyard of fountains and landscaped gardens giving it “an exclusivity that is simply unrivalled”.
Clinton will be able to play on both 18-hole courses at the club where America’s top golfers are to take on Europe in the biennial Ryder Cup in 2006.
But at the clubhouse there was a curt “no comment” on the news of Clinton’s purchase.
The course, recognised as one of Europe’s finest, was designed by Arnold Palmer. It hosted the European Open last week.
The club is next to the small village of Straffan where it is not uncommon to see the golfers Tiger Woods and Mark ’Meara, the Formula One team boss Eddie Jordan and the pop singer Ronan Keating.
George Bush senior, whom Clinton defeated in the 1994 presidential election, has been known to fish in the area.
Clinton’s neighbours will be from Ireland’s elite, including Michael Smurfit, one of the richest men in Ireland; JP McManus and John Magnier, the racing tycoons and part-owners of Manchester United; and Tom Coughlan, the Wal-Mart chief executive. A fortnight ago the King of Malaysia viewed an adjoining property and 12 apartments are still for sale.
The unfurnished apartment comes with a combined living and dining room, kitchen and two bathrooms.
It is unclear what provision would be made for Secret Service agents but The Village is hidden by “ancient trees and a 17th century walled garden”. On leaving office Clinton had legal bills totalling millions of dollars over the Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky and other affairs. However, he is said to command as much as $1 million for an after-dinner speech.
He won respect in most of Northern Ireland for using his office to urge all sides to sign the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
While no statues have been erected in Ulster, a library, hotel suite and cafe on the republican Falls Road have been named in Clinton’s honour.