Hollywood A-lister George Clooney along with his wife Amal and two children spent several days of Easter in Laois getting to know his Irish cousins.
The planned family get together was organised by his parents, renowned broadcaster Nicholas (85) and his writer wife Nina (80), who touched down into the country from the US during the week.
Nicholas’ late sister was internationally acclaimed singer Rosemary Clooney.
The couple hosted the family reunion at the five-star award-winning luxury hotel Ballyfin House in Co Laois to also mark the actor’s first visit to Ireland.
The actor’s parents, renowned broadcaster Nicholas (85) and his writer wife Nina (80) touched down into the country from the US this week.
The location was chosen as it is remote and far from prying eyes.
Mystery surrounds when the entrepreneur, director and heartthrob, his Human Rights lawyer wife Amal Alamuddin and two-year-old Alexander and Ella arrived in the country. The 57-year-old and his family left the country earlier today (Sunday) by private jet following their short break.
Clooney, a multi-award winning actor also met with U2 frontman Bono and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for dinner and Friday night.
The actor is on his first visit to Ireland and is understood to be visiting relations. Among his most noted works include acting as Dr Doug Ross on ER from 1994 to 1999, Ocean’s Eleven, O Brother Where Art Thou and Batman and Robin.
In 2009, Clooney was included in Time’s annual 100 as one of the “Most Influential People in the World”.
Andy Ring, a cousin of Clooney’s and the owner of irishheritagetowns.com met with the actor at Ballyfin. "The first thing he said when he arrived at Ballyfin House was, 'The Irish Clooneys are doing okay', he’s an absolute Gentleman.’”
Another relative of the Clooneys said: “The family have been talking about this get-together and I know some of the Irish cousins have been excited about it. They all had a great time.
He loved the Abbeyleix Tourism and Marketing website which is run by another cousin and the ballad group Abbeyfolk, who penned the song, Here’s to you George Clooney.
"He is hoping to bring the group to the States. He also got on well Leo and said that we (the country) were lucky to have such a caring leader.”
In 2005 an American genealogist discovered George Clooney’s Irish roots in Windgap, Co Kilkenny and Abbeyleix, Co Laois resulting in his parents visiting 12 years ago.
The Clooneys have Irish heritage on both sides of the family, though most significantly on the paternal side.
His father’s great-great-grandfather Nicholas Clooney emigrated to the US from Co Kilkenny. George's relative, Sarah Clooney, who was born in Abbeyleix and died a few years ago, worked in a factory also in the town, which made carpets for the Titanic.
Fiona Clooney, from Laois, also attended the reunion and she was at the Clooney reunion in Kentucky in the US, six years ago with her now husband David.
A film made also made six years ago titled, ‘George Clooney’s Irish Roots’ traces the emigration of his Irish ancestor Nicholas Clooney from Kilkenny to Kentucky in the US during the Great Famine of 1847.
The documentary also involved an intensive search for George’s Irish links, in Laois and Kilkenny as well as the discovery of his ancestral home.
Narrated by Mike Murphy, one of Ireland’s best-renowned television presenters, the film includes interviews with George and Bono as well as historians; Professor Walter Walsh, Joseph Kennedy, Mary Egan and Ned Egan.
Clooney has previously spoken about the intolerance his Irish ancestors experienced in the US when emigrating.
I am of Irish descent and in America a hundred years ago we were refugees, my family. Irish people were treated terribly for a period of time and were not treated well.
The surname Clooney is an anglicized version of the Gaelic O’Cluanaigh, which translates as a descendant of Clugnach, meaning a rogue or a flatterer.