Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Sarah Slater

Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney and his family are expected to visit Ireland by the end of the year to meet up with their Irish cousins.

Clooney, his wife Amal (44) who is a human rights lawyer and their five-year-old twins Ella and Alexander visited the actor’s ancestral home town of Abbeyleix over Easter in 2019.

There the 61-year-old met up with his cousins Seamus and Agnes Clooney and another cousin Fiona Clooney in one of the world’s top luxurious hotels, the five-star Ballyfin House. The father-of-two also has cousins based in Windgap, Co Kilkenny.

He also squeezed in dinner dates with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and U2 frontman Bono.

The family get-together three years ago was organised by his parents, renowned broadcaster Nicholas (88) and writer Nina (83).

Clooney, who has starred in movies such as Midnight Sky, Catch 22, Money Monster and Oceans Twelve, had planned to return to Ireland in 2020, however, his plans were cancelled due to the pandemic.

The Clooney family are currently spending time in Italy at their Villa Oleandra, an impressive 18th century home close to Lake Como.

‘Thrilled’

Close friend of the Clooney’s relations and spokesperson for the family Andy Ring, who met with the A-lister family when they visited and who is the owner of Irishheritagetowns.com said: “George was adamant he was coming back to visit Abbeyleix the hometown of his only living Irish relations as soon as he could, with his family but Covid put pay to it being 2020.

“Now the talk within the family [is] that they are all coming here before the summer of the year is out, as he is anxious to get to properly visit the areas his relatives came from and where his cousins still live.

“He along with Amal really enjoyed their time here getting to know Seamus and Agnes and they are in contact frequently. Now that international travel has opened up again, they are expected to be here sooner rather than later.”

Speaking publicly after his first visit here Clooney explained: “I would be thrilled to be back in Ireland. We were there for Easter (2019), it was unusually warm and nice and it couldn’t have been more fun to be there. I met a bunch of relatives I never knew I had which was also fun.

“My experience there was so memorable and seeing family was so much fun. Being able to feel your real roots is a really cool thing.

“My father had been there and visited the family before and so it was really fun for me.”

One of Clooney’s best friends, actor Matt Damon, spent three months in Dalkey when the pandemic lockdown first hit when filming on The Last Duel. They spoke constantly on the phone about how they both loved the country.

Irish roots

In 2005 an American genealogist discovered George Clooney’s Irish roots in Windgap, Co Kilkenny and Abbeyleix, Co Laois resulting in his parents visiting 12 years ago.

The Clooneys have Irish heritage on both sides of the family, though most significantly on the paternal side.

His father’s great-great-grandfather Nicholas Clooney emigrated to the US from Co Kilkenny. George’s relative, Sarah Clooney, who was born in Abbeyleix and died a few years ago, worked in a factory also in the town which made carpets for the Titanic.

A film made nine years ago titled ‘George Clooney’s Irish Roots’ traces the emigration of his Irish ancestor Nicholas Clooney from Kilkenny to Kentucky in the US during the Great Famine of 1847.

The documentary also involved an intensive search for George’s Irish links in Laois and Kilkenny, as well as the discovery of his ancestral home.

Narrated by Mike Murphy, one of Ireland’s best renowned television presenters, the film includes interviews with George and Bono as well as historians Professor Walter Walsh, Joseph Kennedy, Mary Egan and Ned Egan.

Clooney has previously spoken about the intolerance his Irish ancestors experienced in the US when emigrating. He said: “I am of Irish descent and in America a hundred years ago we were refugees, my family. Irish people were treated terribly for a period of time and were not treated well.”

The surname Clooney is an anglicised version of the Gaelic O’Cluanaigh, which translates as a descendant of Clugnach, meaning a rogue or a flatterer.

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