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Book of Condolence for Muhammad Ali opens in Ennis

Relatives of the late Muhammad Ali gathered with Elected Members and Clare County Council officials at Áras Contae an Chláir in Ennis today to officially open a Book of Condolence in memory of the Honorary Freeman of Ennis, who passed away on Friday night.

Members of the public are invited to sign the Book which will remain open to the public until 5pm on Friday next, 10 June 2016. Standard office opening hours will apply.

During a visit to Ennis in September 2009, Muhammad Ali was named first Honorary Freeman of the town 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.

Among the first people to sign the Book of Condolence today were Imelda O’Grady and Mary O’Donovan, distant relatives of the three-time World Heavyweight Champion. Also present were Cllr. Pat Daly (Mayor of Ennis), Cllr. Mary Howard (Leas Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council), Frankie Neylon (Mayor of Ennis when Ali visited the town in 2009) and Gerard Dollard (Interim Chief Executive).

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.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie