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Spanish Point man John Burke, accompanied by his wife Aoibhin Garrihy, flies the saffron and blue on his arrival back to Shannon Airport, following his successful attempt, being the first Clare person ever to summit Mount Everest. Photograph by John Kelly.

“There’s no place like home” Everest hero Burke returns

A NEW Clare hero arrived home this afternoon, as John Burke touched down at Shannon Airport, having scaled Mount Everest.

As he emerged from the aircraft the 38-year-old hotelier was visibly thrilled to be home, and he was embraced by family on the tarmac.

Later when he emerged from the arrivals area he was welcomed by a large crowd, eager to recognise the Miltown man’s achievement.

Speaking to the press John said he was delighted to be back in Clare. “It’s amazing, I’ve been thinking about it since I left. There’s no place like home, I’m delighted to be back.”

Reaching the earth’s summit was an unforgettable moment. “I got to stand on top of the world on May 16 at 9.45am. It was a dream of ten years for me and I was so emotional when I got to the top, I’m still emotional that I got to the top. I suppose when you chase a dream and you succeed it’s very, very special.”

Part of the motivation for taking on the world’s tallest mountain was to show young people that they can achieve their goals, and to promote a new charity he has established. “I’ve always enjoyed the hills, always enjoyed getting out to the hills and there’s no bigger hill than Everest! Also I wanted to raise awareness for Elevate, which is a new charity that I’m setting up. I want to let young people believe that if you have a dream go for it, whatever it is, no matter how unusual it is. West Clare isn’t known for amazing mountains or mountaineers but I chased that dream and it worked out for me. ”

The scale of the challenge of promoting mental health among  young people is colossal, he feels. “Ireland is blighted with mental health issues. One in three young people have experienced mental health difficulties by the time they have reached 13. Its 50% by the time they reach 22 and I just hope that through Elevate and through this we can give young people the belief that however individual you are, whatever you are into, chase it and believe in it.”

A number of people have died attempting to scale Everest in recent weeks and he said he was relieved to have made it home safely. “I saw bodies on the mountain, it’s a place that’s full of dreams but its full of nightmares too for other people. Thankfully, I’ve managed to make it home.”

Asked about any future plans for further expeditions, he joked that his wife, actor Aoibhín Garrihy, might have other plans. “Aoibhín has brought me a set of golf clubs, so I think she’s trying to send me in that direction!” he joked.

Describing the emotions she has felt since John reached the summit, Aoibhín said, “So proud and very relieved. For a finish I was just excited for him. This has been a long time coming and for him to finally realise his dream, it’s a fantastic achievement and something I’m very proud of.”

Owen Ryan


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