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The Hollywood actor George Clooney, his wife Amal and two children have spent a number of days in Co Laois getting to know his Irish relatives.
They attended a planned family get together which was organised by his parents renowned broadcaster Nicholas (85) and his writer wife Nina (80) who arrived from the US a few days ago.
The couple hosted the family reunion at the five star award winning luxury hotel Ballyfin House in Co Laois.
It was the actor’s first trip to Ireland and he left the country again along with his family on Sunday morning by private jet following their short break.
Andy Ring, a distant cousin of Clooney’s and the owner of irishheritagetowns.com met the actor at Ballyfin. “The first thing he said when he arrived at Ballyfin House was, ‘The Irish Clooneys are doing okay’, he’s an absolute gentleman.”
Another relative of the Clooneys said: “The family have been talking about this get together and I know some of the Irish cousins have been excited about it. They all had a great time”.
Clooney is also understood to have met the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for dinner during his visit, as well as U2’s Bono.
“He loved the Abbeyleix tourism and marketing website which is run by another cousin and the ballad group Abbeyfolk, who penned the song, Here’s to you George Clooney. He is hoping to bring the group to the States. He also got on well with Leo and said that we (the country) were lucky to have such a caring leader,” the relative said.
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 Kentucky in the US during the Great Famine of 1847.
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.”