Bill Clinton is still a divisive figure—at least in Ireland, where a statue of the former president in the town of Ballybunion is raising the hackles of U.S. golf tourists. The seven-foot-tall bronze of Clinton teeing off commemorates his 1995 visit to the famed Ballybunion Golf Club, which made him an honorary member. Placed on Main Street outside the police station, the statue is still the only one in the world of Clinton—and for some Americans that's one too many. "The majority of golfers who come here from the U.S. are Republicans, and they hate the sight of it," says Frank Quilter, a local businessman who raised nearly $40,000 to erect the statue in '98. "There have been nightly donnybrooks in the pubs over the statue. It drives some Americans mad."
For the people of Ballybunion, however, the Clinton statue serves as a symbol of Ireland-U.S. friendship. It has never been vandalized, and after the Sept. II attacks the townsfolk laid wreaths and flowers at its base. Jackie Hourigan, chairman of the Ballybunion Development Company, says the decision to honor Clinton was a natural one. "We had the most powerful man in the world here, and the most talked about at the time. He's very, very popular, especially for his work to get peace in Ireland."
Hourigan isn't about to get bogged down in U.S. partisan politics, and he vows that the town won't bow to pressure from those who take issue with the statue. "We tell them that if they can get President Bush to come and golf here," says Hourigan, "we'll put up a statue for him, too. And eight years hence, if Hillary Clinton comes to power, we'll happily put up one for her as well."