Miriam Lord: Irish wake in Washington to mourn the Democratic dream

Kelly’s Irish Times pub on Capitol Hill is the scene for Martin O’Malley’s eulogy

From meeting the Obama's to the inauguration balls here's all you need to know from President Trump's inauguration day. Video: Reuters/ CSPAN

 

Donald Trump became president of the United States yesterday. The Irish Times is in mourning today. Sad.

The actual wake kicks off at 6pm. Seriously. It does.

Seeing as you ask, it is not happening in Tara Street. We have moved on. And this evening in Washington DC , the Irish American Democrats will try to move on too. To find that closure, they are holding a green-tinted version of a traditional Irish wake to mourn their loss and “lay to rest the year 2016”.

The group, closely aligned with losing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, is expecting much drink to be taken along with hardcore weeping, lamentation and swearing in Kelly’s Irish Times pub on Capitol Hill.

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, a challenger for the Democratic nomination who later supported Clinton, will deliver the eulogy at what should be an initially sombre, if not entirely sober, affair.

“The drink is the crucial part and the whiskey especially,” explained one of the “chief mourners” Stella O’Leary, the Dublin native who founded Irish American Democrats 20 years ago. “I don’t know if we’ll have a coffin or not. It will take up too much space for the guests.”

Stella came up with the idea of holding an “Irish wake” as family, friends and the board members of the group were reduced to tears while witnessing Trump’s victory in the November 8th presidential election. “It was a very Irish thing to suggest. I said: ‘We should have an Irish wake so we can get over this.’ They replied, gosh, that’s what we need. It was as casual as that.”

The hooley takes place after the Women’s March on Washington, a mass rally in support of women’s rights and in rising alarm at Trump’s election. The organisers are expecting a crowd of more than 200,000, with celebrities such as Katy Perry, Amy Schumer, Debra Messing, Cher and Scarlett Johansson set to add some Hollywood star power to the event. They could do worse than round off their first full day in Trumpistan with a trip to the nearby Irish Times.

The popular DC hostelry has an uplifting welcome message painted above the front door: “Give me your thirsty, your famished, your befuddled masses.”

O’Leary reckons that Irish-American protesters on the march will be glad of a reviving drink and some deep, thoughtful words from O’Malley at the wake afterwards. “Hopefully he will have something reflective to say about the benefits of Irish wakes,” she says. “The intent is that we do our mourning and we move on. It has been very difficult to just accept the election result. We are all shattered and heartbroken but life goes on. Maybe the Irish wake will put us all back on target and get us moving.”

The black-edged invitation includes some pointed lines from the main man. (Not Donald, but St Patty, of the eponymous day.) “I summon today all the powers between me and those evils, Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, Against incantations of false prophets – St Patrick.”

HEARTFELT HALLIGAN

When it comes to matters of the heart, Waterford’s John Halligan is ahead of the field. Promotion to a junior ministry has done nothing to curb his vigorous campaign for the provision of more cardiac services in the southeast. And matters of the heart were to the fore again for John yesterday when he married Elaine Powell, his partner of 20 years.

The happy couple exchanged vows at midday in Cork Registry Office. They chose a sand ceremony to symbolise their unity, with the bride and groom pouring vases of sand from two of their favourite places – Saleens beach in Waterford and Sherkin Island in Cork – to fill a third container with inseparable grains.

Elaine is also from the southeast, although in her case she grew up on the Isle of Sheppey, off the Kent coast. “We’re probably diametrically opposed,” muses John. “While Elaine loves Ireland and has a keen interest in Irish politics, she is also a very proud Englishwoman and very conservative compared to me.”

They met in glamorous and romantic circumstances. John tells the story: “I remember it well. It was in a supermarket in Waterford, at the soup stand. We were both buying soup. We spoke a few words to each other. That was about it.”

They didn’t meet again for a number of months. Until the glamour and romance kicked in again. “I bumped into her in a record shop. We were both looking at the Moody Blues albums. It went from there.”

Their love of the Moody Blues has taken them to concerts in the Royal Albert Hall in London over the years, with John and Elaine meeting Justin Haywood and the rest of the band on a number of occasions. “They’re lovely people. We have all their albums.”

The wedding party left Cork city yesterday afternoon and headed off for a celebratory dinner in Kinsale, with the bride and groom spending two nights in the Trident Hotel before returning to Waterford for a big bash with family and friends. It’s second time around for the couple; both were married and divorced many moons ago. “We’ll make it stick this time,” declared the happiest of Halligans yesterday. It’s written in the sands.

GUSHING ALL THE WAY TO EUROPE

Dara Murphy, Junior Minister for Europe, loves his party leader to bits. He absolutely adores Enda. He wants him to be Taoiseach forever. Enda is Dara’s hero. And with the boss out of town and on his way to the annual billionaire’s beano in Davos, the deputy for Cork North Central took his chance to make his feelings known to party colleagues during Wednesday’s parliamentary party meeting.

Concluding his briefing on the Brexit situation, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan praised his Minister of State for European Affairs for the work he is doing on the Brexit effort. The Government is barely a year old, marvelled Charlie, and Dara has already visited nearly every one of countries in the EU. That made a lot of people in the audience smile.

Charlie wondered if Dara like to say a few words?

He didn’t have to be asked twice, leaping to his feet and launching into a heartfelt tribute to the man who made him a junior minister. Murphy declared he felt able to speak uninhibited and felt he could communicate the full extent of his undimmed admiration for Enda because he wasn’t in the room. He doubted he could do it in his modest leader’s humble presence. There followed a good five minutes of gushing praise.

Even Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, smiling benignly at the top table when Dara started his rhapsody in blueshirt, began to look uncomfortable as the acclamation grew in emotional intensity. Enda Kenny. What. A. Man. Murphy was beside himself just thinking about the wonderful job the Taoiseach is doing in Europe. You wouldn’t imagine how well got he is with everyone. They think he’s just brilliant, the junior minister enthused, name-checking a long list of EU luminaries who think Kenny is fab, from Jean-Claude Junker to the new European Parliament president Antonio Tajania and a whole host of names his audience never heard of.

We hear his heartfelt panegyric amused rather than galvanised his cringing crowd, although the kindly Catherine Byrne nodded along enthusiastically. One attendee tried to give us a flavour of Dara’s emotional homage, synopsising a sample sentence from the torrent of words. “It was something like this: ‘Anyone who thinks our national interest is not being served by having this great man at the helm of our team in Europe in this most dangerous and uncertain time for Ireland is deluded.’”

The junior minister’s quivering testimonial was greeted with rapturous silence. Apparently, such is the stature of Enda and Dara in Europe, and their importance to the nation’s economic survival, they are not allowed travel anywhere together. This ensures that if one meets with an accident, the other remains to guide us through. It’s the sensible thing to do.

URGENT APPEAL

This is an appeal on behalf of Bobby Aylward, TD for Carlow-Kilkenny and Fianna Fáil’s junior spokesperson on farming and skills. Bobby sent an email on Thursday to all his Leinster House colleagues seeking assistance in the speedy recovery of his good topcoat and beloved flat cap, both of which have vanished.

The affable Aylward began by wishing a happy new year to one and all before putting out an APB on the missing items which were “left hanging in the lobby of the members’ bar during Christmas week”.

Clearly bereft without his “black heavy overcoat and peaked flat cap” which he thinks was “in one of the side pockets”, Bobby is obviously hoping that some Senator or TD, perhaps confused after a few festive drinks, waltzed off with his clobber having mistaken it for their own.

The popular and sociable deputy is a fine cut of a man, which should narrow the list of possible suspects to tall and broad politicians. The members’ bar is strictly reserved for TDs and Senators, past and present, so the garments can’t have been swiped by one of the great unwashed. It’s a big mystery. The members’ bar isn’t exactly Coppers – it’s a small space open to a very select crowd.

With the weather expected to take a very cold downturn in the coming week, this has become a matter of the gravest urgency. Fellow parliamentarians, find Bobby’s coat! Otherwise he’ll have to walk the farm in Mullinavat in his figure.

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