Celebrating Che's stay: event recalls guerrilla's Clare hiatus

 

THE CUBAN ambassador to Ireland last night described Che Guevara as an “icon” and an “inspiration” as she kicked off a weekend-long celebration of the late revolutionary in the west Clare resort of Kilkee.

Guevara and an entourage had an overnight stay at the Strand Hotel in Kilkee 50 years ago after their flight at Shannon airport was delayed due to fog.

This has led to one of the more unusual events around – the “Che do Bheatha” festival. Yesterday, large images of Guevara could be seen on the approach road to Kilkee and on one of the sea walls at the beach as locals prepared for the inaugural three-day event.

Last night, Guevara fans from across the country joined locals in the front room of the Strand Hotel to hear the ambassador, Teresita Trujillo Hernández, say Guevara “was fighting for a better world, which is an ideal that we are all fighting and hoping for”. She said Guevara’s family was aware the festival was taking place “and they send their greetings to you”. She noted Guevara had Irish roots on his father’s side.

Organiser Tom Byrne secured a replica of the 1939 Norton 500cc motorbike that Guevara travelled across South America on in 1952. Ms Trujillo and Mr Byrne had a shorter spin on the bike in Kilkee last night.

Also present was Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick, who in 1968 created the iconic Che Guevara portrait image now recognised globally. During Guevara’s visit 50 years ago the Howth artist served the South American and his group drinks while a barman at the Marine Bar in Kilkee.

Copyright on the image has been suspended, but Fitzpatrick confirmed last night he was taking this back and would present it to the Guevara family. “I disliked the commercial use, that is why I have taken the copyright back. I am handing the copyright over to the Che Guevara family lock, stock and barrel,” he said.