Clinton spends £800,000 to live and play amid Ireland's sporting elite

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The Independent Online

Bill Clinton has invested a chunk of the millions he has earned as a speechmaker after leaving office in a luxury apartment on an elite golfing complex near Dublin.

The former president can expect to rub shoulders with the mega-rich from Ireland and elsewhere at the K Club in Co Kildare, which boasts high-quality golfing and the most opulent facilities.

The €1.2m (£837,000) deal at the club, which will stage the Ryder Cup competition in 2006, was struck through Arthur French, an estate agent and a friend of Mr Clinton.

"It was agreed last Sunday evening," John Bosco French, Arthur's son, confirmed yesterday. "He was playing with Arthur in Royal Portrush. He'd been over and back a bit lately and he was talking about buying a base here and last Sunday evening he decided on the K Club," he added.

At 1,400sq ft, the former president's new apartment (number 702) comprises two bedrooms, one with an en suite bathroom, a living/dining room, kitchen and two further bathrooms. Nothing is spared in terms of service: he will be able to fish, swim, cycle, play squash and tennis, use the saunas and whirlpool baths, or treat himself to a host of other activities.

He can also admire a fine collection of Irish art, as well as beautiful vistas in a complex that sprawls across 330 acres. The K Club boasts two fine restaurants and a five-star hotel.

The sheer size of the estate may provide a welcome measure of security for the former president, who remains a closely guarded figure. He is said to have hesitated several times before making the purchase, partly because of the American -led invasion of Iraq.

His deal is front-page news in the Irish Republic, where he is extremely popular. He has repeatedly visited both the North and the Republic while in office and since he stepped down, and has a special fondness for golfing in Ireland.

He is particularly esteemed by Irish nationalists as having played a crucial part in the peace process, which he encouraged since the early 1990s. At that time, the process was a highly controversial enterprise: John Major, then Prime Minister, stopped speaking to him after he lifted the ban on Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, visiting the US.

Mr Clinton visited Ireland earlier this week to give a speech in Northern Ireland, meet Bertie Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister, in Dublin, and play a round of golf in Co Down.

The K Club is the brainchild of the Irish multimillionaire businessman Dr Michael Smurfit. The other properties are owned by business figures, hoteliers and racehorse owners.

The estate's history can be traced to the 6th century, when it was given by Strongbow to the Fitzgeralds, ancestors of the Dukes of Leinster, a grant later confirmed by the brother of Richard the Lionheart.

The Clinton apartment is described as part of a "secure and secluded private development, overlooking its own courtyard with ornamental fountain. The brickwork used in the construction mirrors the craftsmanship of the 17th- century garden wall, the fascia features granite dashing and superb ironwork."

None of this, of course, comes cheap. The new apartments sell for up to €1.2m. An additional benefit is that the apartment prices include two club memberships "in perpetuity". At the moment, 50-year memberships cost €225,000.

Green fees for a resident are €105, while non-residents pay €256. The course was designed by Arnold Palmer and is said to have an American feel.