Tributes to Honorary Freeman of Ennis – Ali

*Video used with permission of Colm Flynn. Narrated by Ger Sweeney.

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Tributes have been flowing in for the legendary and the ‘Greatest’ Muhammed Ali who died last night in Phoenix aged 74.

The three-time World Heavyweight Champion was named the first Honorary Freeman of Ennis in 2009 in recognition of his career achievements and his ancestral links with the Clare County Capital.

Muhammad Ali’s ancestor Abe Grady emigrated from County Clare to the United States in the 1860s. He eventually settled in Kentucky, where he married an African-American woman.

Their son also married an African-American and one of the daughters of that union was Ali’s mother, named Odessa Lee Grady. She married Cassius Clay, senior, and they settled in Louisville, where their son was initially given his father’s name on his birth in 1942.

Cllr. Pat Daly said Muhammad Ali was “one of the most recognisable men on earth and remained a magical figure, known and loved throughout the world throughout his life”.

“The people of Ennis and County Clare are very proud of their association with Mr. Ali and his passing will be particularly felt in Ennis where his visit 7 years ago marked one of the greatest days in the town’s history with 30,000 people lining the streets”, added the Mayor.

“We were honoured that he accepted Ennis Town Council’s offer of becoming the town’s first Honorary Freeman in recognition of his unrivalled sporting achievements on the world stage, and his contribution to educational and charitable causes through his global fundraising foundation,” said Cllr. Daly.

Frankie Neylon was Mayor of Ennis when Ali visited the town on 1 September 2009.

“Muhammad Ali’s visit to the Clare County Capital will forever go down as a landmark moment in the history of the town. It was a very emotional visit for Mr. Ali and his family as well as the people of Clare. It was clear that he embraced Ennis and the people of Clare embraced him. It is important that we remember Mr. Ali and continue to celebrate our connection with one of the greatest sporting icons of all time,” said Mr. Neylon.

Meanwhile, Clare County Council will open a Book of Condolence at Áras Contae an Chláir from 11.00am on Tuesday 7 June to enable the people of Clare to directly express their appreciation of one of only two Honorary Freeman of Ennis, the other being Michael D Higgins in 2013.

In a statement, President Michael D Higgins said: “The passing of Muhammad Ali will have been heard with the greatest sadness by Irish people of all generations.

Many will remember the wit, grace and beauty he brought to boxing and some will recall his visits to Ireland.”

“All over the world people also flocked to hear him offer his view on the achievement of democracy and particularly equal rights when they were so strikingly missing in some of the richest countries of the world.

He brought his message of freedom and respect for people of all races to all the continents of the world.

As a sportsman and humanitarian, and as someone who struggled for a very long time with one of the most debilitating illnesses, he offered courage in the face of great difficulties. He was intent on going on communicating right to the very end.

He will be missed not only by his close friends and family but by those who heard him and were influenced by him, all over the world,” the President added.

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