IT’S been seven years of a wait but this week saw the realisation of a vision long held by former Ennis Town Council chairman Michael Corley.
Seven years ago, the former councillor first proposed that Muhammad Ali be invited to Ennis in light of the boxer’s family links with the town. And this week, Mr Corley was thrilled to sit amongst those invited to attend a civic reception held in the legendary boxer’s honour.
He described the event as a “proud day for Ennis”. Speaking to The Clare Champion, he recalled how seven years ago, he first put forward the idea of extending an invitation to Ali to come to Ennis and research his ancestry.
“At the time, there was publicity about his links with Ennis and I would have been a huge admirer and supporter of him. Like Ali, I grew up through the ‘ 60s and the protests about the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, so Ali was an icon for me. The idea of him having a connection with Ennis and me as chairman of the town council, it was too good an opportuntiy to miss,” he said.
The council agreed to extend an invitation but of course, it was several years before the boxer took up the opportunity to come and visit his ancestral home.
“I was delighted that the members of the council went with the proposal. At the time, we did try and investigate the possibility of bringing Ali to Ennis but I felt, as the years went by, that it became too big a project. We were hoping then that something else might bring him to Ennis or to Ireland and I think it’s fantastic of this year’s council to take the opportunity when he came to Dublin to invite him to Ennis,” he said.
He told us, “I feel proud and delighted today. I think it’s a proud day for Ennis too. There are all these programmes nowadays where people research their roots and I think it’s great for Ennis to think that Ali is from Ennis. Part of Ali’s genes and makeup came from Ennis 150 years ago and I think that’s fantastic. Ennis has been to the forefront over the centuries in many particular ways and it is great that we have this link with someone as big a giant as Muhammad Ali. I’m delighted he has taken the initiative to come over here as I know his schedule is very hectic.”