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The Forgotten Visit

The US presidential visit that seems to have faded in collective memory, despite the fact that it had people lining the streets - Richard Nixon's trip to Ireland in 1970 is remembered in this radio documentary. (2010)

Documentary maker: Pat O'Mahony

Documentary Maker: Pat O'Mahony

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Documentary maker: Liam O'Brien

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The Forgotten Visit

Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States and the only one to resign the office, visited Ireland from October 3rd-5th, 1970.

Pat O'Mahony clearly remembers the visit because he was an eyewitness to one of Nixon's major stop-offs, lining out with the rest of his 4th class schoolmates in his home town of Kildare, to catch a momentary glance of the President and his wife, Pat – herself a Ryan of Mayo stock – as they arrived to watch some local Irish dancers in the town square.

But there was much about Nixon's trip that Pat didn't know. At the time, for example, he had no idea Nixon was only in Kildare on his way back from Timahoe in the north of the county to visit where his Quaker ancestors, Thomas and Sarah Milhous, had left for Pennsylvania in 1729.

And he is amazed at the number of Irish people who have no memory at all of the visit.

Now, four decades on, he's curious to piece together a fuller picture of a significant moment in Irish history that has been largely forgotten, overshadowed in our collective memory particularly by the earlier visit of Nixon's great archrival, JFK.

In "The Forgotten Visit" Pat O'Mahony goes on a very personal journey, not only casting his mind back to how he as a naive 9-year-old welcomed with childlike excitement the soon-to-be-disgraced US President, but also, in the company of various eyewitnesses, historians, protestors and broadcasters, for the first time explores how they remember the visit and the wider circumstances in which the trip occurred, including how these memories compare to recollections of the other US presidential trips to Ireland, and how people have since individually dealt with Nixon's subsequent fall from grace.

Pat also investigates the power of the Irish-American lobby, past and present, and how any US politician worth their salt knows how important it is to woo them.

A trip that takes in all the major locations of Nixon's 1970 visit, Kilfrush House in Limerick, Timahoe in north Kildare, Pat's hometown of Kildare, and Dublin, "The Forgotten Visit" is a unique and revealing tale of savvy politics, well researched genealogy and largely more innocent times.

Compiled by Pat O'Mahony.

Production supervision by Liam O'Brien.

First broadcast Saturday 2nd October 2010

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.

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