Kenny’s farewell US trip strikes right note at U2 gig

Bono alerts devoted fans to presence at Chicago concert of ‘chieftan of our country’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny dealt with the leadership issue early. “I’m happy to pass on responsibility to the next generation.” Photograph: The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny dealt with the leadership issue early. “I’m happy to pass on responsibility to the next generation.” Photograph: The Irish Times

 

It may be one of his final trips as Taoiseach but Enda Kenny kicked off his farewell US trip with a bang as he attended the Chicago leg of U2’s Joshua Tree tour on Sunday.

Front-man Bono gave a shout-out to the Taoiseach from the stage. “The chieftain of our country is here tonight,” said Bono to his adoring fans as he tried to explain the word Taoiseach to the bemused crowd. No one seemed to notice, however, as the hits kept belting out.

There were no sightings of any dad-dancing from the VIP box where Kenny and his officials watched the gig, though the Taoiseach was spotted taking selfies and later sporting a baseball cap that had been presented to him earlier in the evening.

Even the Taoiseach it seems, can get a little star struck. In his pre-concert chat with Bono, he confessed to being a Bruce Springsteen fan. Bono didn’t mind. He presented the outgoing leader with a vinyl collection of Joshua Tree records, signed, “To the Boss, Bono.”

Kenny’s final US trip as Taoiseach continued on Monday where he delivered two speeches, one at the Council for Global Affairs in the city, the second to a group of business leaders who had gathered at the Ocean Cut restaurant run by Irish man Matt Moore to mark the opening of a new Enterprise Ireland office in Chicago.

‘Next generation’

A relaxed Kenny dealt with the leadership issue early. “I’m happy to pass on responsibility to the next generation,” he said.

He spoke at length about the relationship between America and Europe and described Brexit as a “step into the unknown”. He also raised the Paris climate change agreement, stating that Paris is “not removeable”, and telling reporters on the sidelines that it is “disappointing, to put it mildly” that the United States has announced its withdrawal from the pact.

“You can’t ignore the accuracy of scientific facts and it’s disappointing to put it mildly that America chose this route,” he said.

But the real focus of his trip was the links between Ireland and America. The Taoiseach, whose son is currently on a J1 visa in Chicago, spoke of the deep connections between Ireland and America. Building on his announcement in March of a referendum on voting rights for emigrants, he stressed the importance of bringing the undocumented Irish in America “out of the shadows,” and paid tribute to Billy Lawless, the Chicago man he nominated to the Seanad.

On Tuesday Mr Kenny will meet with the relations of Michael Collins, among the founders of Cumann na nGaedhael which was the forerunner to Fine Gael, a fitting end to the Taoiseach’s American odyssey.