Hillary Clinton: US presidential hopeful’s Derry links

Patsy OKane, on left, welcomes Hillary and Bill Clinton to the Beech Hill Hotel back in the summer of 2004.
Patsy OKane, on left, welcomes Hillary and Bill Clinton to the Beech Hill Hotel back in the summer of 2004.

Hillary Clinton, the favourite to be America’s next president, will always be remembered at Derry’s Beech Hill Country House Hotel for her “stunning smile, hearty laugh and downright positivity”.

The Democratic candidate stayed in the Ardmore hotel when she visited Northern Ireland with her husband, 42nd US President Bill Clinton, in August 2004.

The former US First Lady is hotly tipped to follow in the footsteps of her husband later this year and her “friends at the Beech Hill” will certainly be cheering her on in the race for the White House, says the hotel’s owner Patsy O’Kane.

She fondly recalls the Derry visit of the former US Secretary of State and first ever female US presidential candidate.

“Hillary was brimming full of confidence and was so charming,” says Patsy. “Both she and Bill had great chemistry with people, and she was so bright and friendly. It is easy to see how she is such a winner with the public.

“I remember she had a great air of positivity and was extremely approachable in as much as she could be with the heavy Secret Service presence that was buzzing around.

“I noted that, if she was talking to someone and was told to move on, she would make sure to finish her conversation, regardless of the Secret Service instructions.”

The Beech Hill has played host to Bill Clinton on several occasions while the couple’s daughter, Chelsea, also stayed in the Co. Derry Georgian country house back in 2001.

However, when Hillary accompanied her husband to the hotel, there was a much more relaxed air to the visit, Patsy recalls.

“Although the staff were all a little nervous because of the high profile of the visitors, both Hillary and Bill were always very appreciative of everything we did for them. They made it easy for us, they just went with the flow.

“It was clear that they just wanted to relax - they were happy with a glass of wine and the same coffee as everyone else was drinking. They wanted nothing out of the ordinary and were so down to earth despite all of the hullaballoo going on around them.

“Their philosophy was to be treated just the same as everyone else. They just wanted to chill out.”

For Patsy, there are particularly lasting memories of the women who would be president.

“I’ll always remember her in a beautiful blue outfit with her stunning smile and very warm and hearty laugh. It was a contagious laugh which led me to instantly feel at ease and believe she was enjoying herself.”

Hillary Clinton is not the first US presidential hopeful to stay at the Beech Hill Country House Hotel.

Current Secretary of State John Kerry, who campaigned unsuccessfully against George W Bush in 2004, and the late Ted Kennedy, who lost the Democratic primary nomination to Presidential incumbent Jimmy Carter ahead of the 1980 election, also relaxed at the Co Derry getaway.

However, hopes are high at the Beech Hill that Hillary Clinton will live up to her billing as the bookies’ favourite in the race to the White House.

Patsy says: “We’ll all be supporting Hillary, of course. She obviously has a great understanding of what’s involved, having spent so long in the White House in the past. With her experience, I’m sure she’ll hit the ground running in what is a very difficult time not only for America but for the whole world.

“When something goes wrong in another part of the world, it often affects our business here in Northern Ireland and at the Beech Hill, even though we may be thousands of miles away.

“I believe we should all be praying that this great woman wins the presidency because she has the experience needed to make the right decisions as a world leader - decisions which can make things better for us all.”

And, insists Patsy, there’ll always be warm welcome for Hillary Clinton at the Beech Hill Country House Hotel.

“We’d be extremely proud to have Hillary back at the Beech Hill whether she is the first female US President or not. But to have her back as the world’s most powerful and influential leader would be the icing on the cake.”