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Michael Jackson: A special relationship with Ireland

Although Michael Jackson was a global superstar, he always maintained a close relationship with Ireland.

His two 1988 sell-out concerts in Cork are still fondly remembered by the thousands who flocked to Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

The shows came as part of the 'Bad' tour and Jackson was at the height of his powers.

But while there have been infrequent visits back to Ireland for concerts, it was his less advertised time here that drew massive attention.

Jackson fever gripped the midlands in 2006, after the singer visited the village of Rosemount, near Moate in Co Westmeath.

He stayed in the luxurious Grouse Lodge recording studios to lay down some tracks and there were reported sightings across the region.

While at Grouse Lodge he recorded an interview at the studios with American TV reporter Billy Bush for the show 'Access Hollywood'.

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Jackson told the show: “Ireland has inspired me to make a great album. I have never given up on making music.”

Last night, the owner of Temple Bar Studios, Paddy Dunning, said he was shocked at the death. Jackson stayed with Mr Dunning in Grouse Lodge at the time.

“I was really shocked and stunned to hear that he had died. We got on really well. I had no idea at all that he might have been sick,” said Mr Dunning.

Jackson's Westmeath visit followed a period when he was based in Co Wicklow. He shelled out a reported rent of €30,000 per week to stay at Luggala Castle for three months.

The seven-bedroom retreat came with private chefs, butlers and cleaners, and is set in a 1,500-acre country estate. Previous star guests included actors Mel Gibson and Orlando Bloom.

On several occasions, it was reported that Jackson wanted to move to Ireland permanently, and that he even spent time house-hunting in Co Cork.

According to Californian psychic Randa Starr, the pop superstar has always been interested in Ireland because he is fascinated by fairies and leprechauns.

There were even rumours that the singer wanted to build an Irish-themed leprechaun theme park twinned with his Neverland ranch in the USA.

In March this year, Irish fans were treated to a close-up viewing of some of Jackson's personal property which were displayed in Co Kildare in advance of a planned auction.

The items included an iconic white-jewelled glove, a selection of his on-stage costumes, and fedoras from the 'Billie Jean' video.

Athlone-born man Martin Nolan, co-owner of Julien's Auctions, chose Newbridge as the venue for the exhibition in April this year, the only showing of the pop star's personal items in Europe.

However the subsequent auction sale in Los Angeles was cancelled after a legal wrangle.

But it was on stage that Jackson will best be remembered by Irish fans, most notably during Cork in 1988.

Other major gigs in Dublin's RDS in 1997 and Lansdowne Road and Cork in 1992 also drew thousands of loyal fans.

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