New York hotelier has no plans to check out just yet
He recalls hosting former first minister Ian Paisley, who now carries the title of Lord Bannside.
Fitzpatrick had become friendly with his son Ian jnr, who recommended to his father that he stay in one of the Irish hotels on his first visit to New York as first minister.
“Ian jnr rang me and said I’ve one request. I said, ‘Don’t worry I know what it is and it’ll be flying’.”
It was a request that the union jack (or union flag as everyone likes to call it now) would be flying outside the hotel.
Fitzpatrick was at the door to greet Paisley when he arrived by car.
“He got out of the car, looked up and said to me, ‘My son says you’re okay’,” Fitzpatrick recalls.
Paisley then walked in to the foyer of the hotel where half a dozen Derry women were gathered.
“They said to him, ‘What are you doing here’, and he said, ‘Why wouldn’t I be here? I’m Irish’.”
Born in Dublin in 1962, Fitzpatrick studied hotel management at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas before working for a time in Chicago.
“My dad loved gambling and my mother used to say that the only reason he sent me to college in Vegas was so he could visit me.”
He returned home to work in the family business – they had three hotels, Killiney, Shannon Shamrock and Silver Springs in Cork – before being sent to New York by his father in 1991 to run the Manhattan hotel, which they’d just acquired.
The Fitzpatrick’s venture into the US hotel business was backed in the early days by Dermot Desmond’s NCB and ACT Venture Capital.
Fitzpatrick is a US citizen and has an honorary OBE from the queen for his efforts in the peace process in Northern Ireland, where he has been involved in charity work.
“I’m very proud of that,” he says.
Fitzpatrick is on the boards of the American-Ireland Fund and the Ireland-US Council and was part of the finance campaign team for Hillary Clinton when she ran successfully for senator of New York and was unsuccessful in her bid for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 2008.
He had supported her husband, President Bill Clinton, before that.
He has retained links with Clinton since she became secretary of state, a position she is about to relinquish.
Fitzpatrick is confident that, her health permitting, Clinton will run for president next time.
“I’m telling you here and now she will run for president. This is my prediction.
“I’m a big fan of the Clintons but it’s not because I’m Irish or a Democrat but for what they have done for Northern Ireland. There wouldn’t have been peace in Northern Ireland without the Clintons.”
Fitzpatrick has been busy closer to home. He recently bought a penthouse apartment in south Dublin for a fraction of the price that would have been sought in the Celtic Tiger years.
He’s also been looking around for a hotel acquisition in Dublin city.
Fitzpatrick tabled an offer for the old Berkeley Court in Ballsbridge after the banks that now control the former Seán Dunne property sought tenders to operate that hotel and its sister property, the Ballsbridge Hotel, for five years.
“With the Berkeley Court, I wanted it if I could have the option to buy it.
“I was reluctant to bid too high given that it was a short-term lease of five years and truthfully, I was more interested in having an option to purchase the hotel at the end of the lease. But that option wasn’t available.”
He also took a look at the Shannon Shamrock in Bunratty but was saddened by its current dilapidated state.
It was a trip down memory lane in many ways, given that the hotel was once part of his family’s hotel portfolio and was run for a time by the eldest son of Eithne and Paddy Fitzpatrick.
“We’re not going to do anything stupid. I’m not doing it for sentimental reasons,” he insists.
What about Ashford Castle in Cong, which is on the block for €25 million?
After all, it’s a big hit with Americans, who love the connection with The Quiet Man film.