Standing ovation as curtain falls on hugely successful Irish State visit to UK
President Michael D Higgins exits on a high after speech to Royal Shakespeare Company and spontaneous walkabout in Stratford-upon-Avon
He launched into a learned and lyrical address on “A Shared Language” for some time, beginning with Vaclav Havel and finishing up with a poem from Robert Graves and throwing the literary and linguistic kitchen sink in between.
Michael D loves his poetry. We hear that on Tuesday in London’s City Hall he got involved in a little contest with Boris Johnston after they spoke of their mutual love of the classics. The pair began quoting some ancient Greek poem – Boris saying one line, then the President the next, and so on . . .
Yesterday, it was quite the performance again from Michael D, with hand gestures and extravagant bows towards the actors. It was delivered using an arsenal of pinched warbling, dramatic pitch changes and preciously rolled consonants. After the ovation, gifts were exchanged. A handsomely bound set of The Complete Works of Shakespeare from the RSC and a package wrapped in shimmering Cadbury purple paper from the President.
A nice box of Diary Milk, perhaps? Better again. A facsimile of The Book of Kells . The President floated home yesterday evening on the jet. When the wheels went up, we hear a mass Conga of relief took place among the foreign affairs/ foreign office officials. Full marks to the Tánaiste and Irish Ambassadors Dan Mulhall in London and Dominic Chilcott for the UK on the Dublin side on a job well done. But they’ll need those guy ropes to tether Michael D to the ground for a while . . .