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College American football game in Dublin drawing tens of thousands of US fans

A highly anticipated college football game in Dublin has witnessed the largest single peacetime movement of US citizens out of the country, the US ambassador to Ireland has said.

Around 40,000 American football fans from the US have descended on the Irish capital for Saturday’s encounter between Notre Dame and Navy at the Aviva Stadium.

Ambassador Claire Cronin spoke about the significance of the weekend as she accompanied two US Congressional delegations to a meeting with Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin on Friday.

“We expect 40,000 Americans to travel to Dublin this weekend, which is the largest single movement of American people, absent during a war time, in history,” she said.

“So we’re delighted about that. We’re also very delighted that when we talk about the US-Ireland relationship, it’s a relationship that has no boundaries.

“So we have a bipartisan delegation here, bicameral as well, both members of the Senate and the House.

“I can say that within the United States, although there are certain things we may or may not agree on everything, but when it comes to all things Ireland, our United States Congress and Senate has always been a great friend and ally to Ireland.”

Aer Lingus College Football Classic
Tanaiste Micheal Martin and the US ambassador to Ireland, Claire Cronin, during a press conference at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The two Congressional delegations were led by Democratic Senator Christopher Murphy from Connecticut and Republican Congressman Pat Fallon from Texas.

Mr Murphy said it was a “really important weekend”.

“Not only is there an incredibly important sporting match that will draw tens of thousands of Americans as well as members of the community to a game that is going to be watched all around the world, but we also have hundreds of state legislators who are here, we have hundreds of CEOs of American and Irish companies that are meeting and… we have a very large, unique (Congressional) delegation.

“Not all of the time do Republicans and Democrats travel together abroad. Many times you will see Republican delegations or Democratic delegations.

“But here in Dublin, this weekend, we have a very large delegation, 16 or 17 members from the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, because, well, there are many things that we disagree on in Washington, we do not disagree on our support for the US-Ireland relationship, we do not disagree on our common commitment to keep and uphold the Good Friday Agreement and we do not disagree on our desire to continue to improve this booming economic relationship.”

Congressman Fallon said there were so many “moral, economic and familial ties” between the US and Ireland.

“A lot of times when people talk about the special relationship they are referring to the United States and the UK, but there is also a very special relationship between the United States and Ireland and there is a great affinity,” he said.

Mr Fallon added: “I’ve been to Ireland about a dozen times but when Notre Dame plays Navy here, I will always be here.”

At a press conference the US visitors were asked if they feel safe in the city following a recent high-profile attack on an American tourist.

All three made clear they felt safe, insisting such incidents were isolated and could happen in any major city in the world.

Mr Martin said the visit of the Congressional delegations and the scenes in Dublin were reflective of the enduring strength of the Irish American relationship.

“Thousands and thousands are coming to the game, a huge economic boost in itself but more than that, I think a reflection and manifestation of the depth of the relationship between our two peoples and two nations,” he said.