In Pictures: Muhammad Alis Croke Park Win In 1972

The Long Fella’s officials gave The Greatest some short shrift – but Jack Lynch nearly had Muhammad Ali throw his hat in the ring for a Cork by-election.

The revelations around two Fianna Fáil stalwarts and their differing approaches to the boxing icon are contained in a new book by journalist and broadcaster Flor McCarthy.

In it, it’s revealed that a request from heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali to meet with Éamon de Valera when he came to fight at Croke Park in 1972 was snubbed by the then-president’s private secretary.

a man holding his head in his hands: The Long Fella’s officials gave The Greatest some short shrift – but Jack Lynch nearly had Muhammad Ali throw his hat in the ring for a Cork by-election. Pic: Getty Images © Provided by Extra.ie The Long Fella’s officials gave The Greatest some short shrift – but Jack Lynch nearly had Muhammad Ali throw his hat in the ring for a Cork by-election. Pic: Getty Images

Ali, who was in Ireland to fight Al Lewis, had already met then-Taoiseach Lynch in Leinster House and had a good-natured exchange. Lynch told Ali he would be taking time out from the mid-Cork by-election campaign to attend the big fight.

When Ali told the Taoiseach he would ‘love to be a leader of people someday’, Lynch joked: ‘Perhaps you could come down and be a candidate for us.’

The Greatest quickly rose to the challenge, telling the Taoiseach: ‘If you wish, Mr Premier, I can get this fight over in a hurry!’

However, the legendary boxer didn’t get such a warm welcome from the Áras.

When Ali told the Taoiseach he would ‘love to be a leader of people someday’, Lynch joked: ‘Perhaps you could come down and be a candidate for us.’ © Provided by Extra.ie When Ali told the Taoiseach he would ‘love to be a leader of people someday’, Lynch joked: ‘Perhaps you could come down and be a candidate for us.’

A memo, included in The Presidents’ Letters: An Unexpected History Of Ireland, was written in Irish by 90-year-old de Valera’s personal secretary, and had a less welcoming tone.

‘I don’t think it is appropriate for a boastful man such as Ali to be visiting the President,’ it stated. ‘Particularly after what he said about his visit and especially the visit to the Taoiseach.’

The comment is assumed to refer to a speech Ali made during his visit to the Taoiseach, in which he suggested Irish and African-American people share a ‘proud history of struggle’.

‘I won’t go any further with the story,’ continued the memo. ‘But if Muhammad Ali is looking for a meeting again, care must be taken when accepting it.’

Lynch told Ali he would be taking time out from the mid-Cork by-election campaign to attend the big fight. Pic: AP © Provided by Extra.ie Lynch told Ali he would be taking time out from the mid-Cork by-election campaign to attend the big fight. Pic: AP

Other fascinating correspondences and curios in the book include a joint Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael letter inviting Douglas Hyde to be the first President in 1938 and a birthday greeting sent by Michael D Higgins to Bob Dylan this year.

There’s also an amusing exchange between a schoolboy and President Patrick Hillery in 1985. The handwritten letter from young Shane Doyle asks the President if he can ‘outlaw school, if not for ever, just for a year or two’.

President Hillery replied to the letter and ruefully declined the boy’s request. ‘I do not like causing you disappointment as when I was your age I felt the same about school as you do now,’ he wrote.

Muhammad Ali posing for the camera: Ali made a speech during his visit to the Taoiseach, in which he suggested Irish and African-American people share a ‘proud history of struggle’. (Photo by Trevor Humphries/Getty Images) © Provided by Extra.ie Ali made a speech during his visit to the Taoiseach, in which he suggested Irish and African-American people share a ‘proud history of struggle’. (Photo by Trevor Humphries/Getty Images)

‘What really amazed me was how all of these letters were kept, regardless of the age of the writer,’ says author McCarthy, who hasn’t managed to track down Shane Doyle but hopes that ‘maybe he’ll turn up yet’.

She said she spent most of the pandemic trawling through archives in UCD, the National Library, the National Archives and 660 boxes of Mary Robinson’s personal archive to put the book together.

McCarthy, who calls the book ‘a who’s who of the 20th century’, said: ‘I went looking for this book and it didn’t exist. So I thought I’d better do it myself.’

The Presidents’ Letters: An Unexpected History of Ireland is available now.

Source : https://www.msn.com/en-ie/news/other/how-muhammad-ali-nearly-ran-as-a-fianna-fail-candidate-in-a-local-by-election/ar-AAQa5YB

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How Muhammad Ali ‘nearly’ ran as a Fianna Fail candidate in a local by-election

Source:MSN

How Muhammad Ali ‘nearly’ ran as a Fianna Fail candidate in a local by-election