First ladies gush at Gaiety stage of visit

Miriam Lord’s week

 US first lady Michelle Obama with Moya Doherty and Fionnuala Kenny at a performance of Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre last Monday. Photograph: Eric Luke

US first lady Michelle Obama with Moya Doherty and Fionnuala Kenny at a performance of Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre last Monday. Photograph: Eric Luke


And speaking of slobbering . . .

Here’s the Taoiseach’s wife, Fionnuala Kenny, introducing the guest of honour at Monday’s special performance of Riverdance in the Gaiety Theatre: “The first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, is certainly a woman of real substance: warm, intelligent, beautiful, caring, energetic, fun, a great dancer too . . . and I could go on and on!”

Did we detect a hint of mischief in Fionnuala’s delivery? She couldn’t keep a straight face by the time she got to the dancing bit.

Not to be outdone – but without a trace of irony – Mrs Obama replied: “I wanna start by thanking Fionnuala Kenny, who’s been such a wonderful friend. And for all the wonderful things you said about me, it is doubled.

“This woman is gracious and funny and warm and kind and has just been truly open-armed to me and it has meant so much to have her friendship and her hospitality. So I want us to give Mrs Kenny a wonderful round of applause. She’s one of the reasons why I came back as well.” The two of them left the stage hand in hand. Seriously.

Aaah here.

Finnegan’s lunch
Meanwhile, differing reports of what the first lady had to drink emerged on Tuesday after she lunched with Bono in Finnegan’s pub.

If some of the wildly inaccurate reports supposedly emanating from the hostelry were true, they would have had to carry her into the armoured car and send her back to Barack in Belfast.

In fact, all she had with her lobster and fish ’n’ chips was a “sip” of Guinness and one small glass of pinot grigio with her meal.

Next to the pub, the crowd outside the late Maeve Binchy’s front window was in high spirits. “Oh, but Maeve would have loved this,” agreed the Dalkey ladies waiting for a glimpse of Michelle.

At one stage, one of her entourage emerged from Finnegan’s holding a credit card, swiftly returning with a different one in his hand. “Oh, dear God. I hope it wasn’t declined,” trembled one of the Dalkey ladies, as her friends nodded gravely in agreement. “How mortifying.”

One member of the large travelling party stood out from the rest. His achingly on-trend outfit, designer shades and velvet slip-ons (no socks) fascinated onlookers. This Wesley Snipes lookalike was the custodian of the first lady’s make-up bag – a key member of her team. Over the two days, we never saw him without that bag. We instinctively knew that man would take a bullet for Michelle’s lipliner.

We recognised Martin Mackin, former general secretary of the Fianna Fáil party, waiting outside the pub with the suits. Turns out that Martin, who is now a big wheel in the world of corporate PR, does some work for U2 and he was keeping an eye on Bono.

Security was so tight on the road into Glendalough that the garda on the checkpoint read aloud people’s personal phone numbers and dates of birth when he consulted their names on his clipboard. That’s the Americans for you, mad for collecting information.
This development caused consternation among certain female members of the media.
In the waiting area, a bemused Special Branch officer said he would have to check our glass of iced water with his metal detector because it hadn’t been given the once over by the sniffer dog.

As one would imagine, all the venues visited by the Obamas were immaculate. Maybe because the rooms “were swept with dogs” – as we were repeatedly told. We’re not sure how the dogs felt about this, but they brought up a lovely shine on the parquet in Trinity.

Senators from all sides are hoping the Upper House will live to pontificate another day when the country votes on its future in the autumn.

In the forefront of the fight to save it from abolition is the recently established independent group, Democracy Matters. They want a “reformed” Seanad.

First, the voters must be persuaded to accept that it’s worth saving the second chamber. But campaigns cost money. So earlier this month, Senators Feargal Quinn and Katherine Zappone wrote to their Seanad colleagues seeking support for the fledgling Democracy Matters and, more importantly, their cash.

“With your generous support Democracy Matters hopes to run a vigorous and energetic referendum campaign to oppose the abolition of the Seanad and to promote its comprehensive reform.

“At this stage of our preparations, Democracy Matters crucially needs financial support. The maximum donation permissible by law is, for an individual, €2,500 and is totally private and confidential up to that amount.

“In order to ensure a successful referendum campaign, we need a number of contributions at this level, but obviously we will also be grateful for contributions of smaller amounts.”

This request has not gone down well in some Seanad quarters. While the organisation has stressed it is completely independent of all political parties and is campaigning solely on the issue of Seanad reform, some Senators are suspicious that a successful outcome for the group might tempt some of them to form a new party.

The high-profile presence of former PD leader Michael McDowell in Democracy Matters has come in for mention.

Anyway, should any Senators decide to put their money where their well-exercised mouth is, a Democracy Matters account is now open. Cheques should be sent to “Bank of Ireland, The Law Library, The Four Courts.”

McDowell will be able to pop in and keep an eye on the balance, so.

Seán Kelly, Fine Gael MEP for Munster and former president of the GAA, is a passionate supporter of Kerry football, but we never realised he is equally devoted to the Cats. Not the Kilkenny hurling team: he is besotted by his large collection of feline friends.

This information emerged during a recent debate in the European Parliament on measures to make it easier for pet owners to travel around Europe with their dogs, cats and ferrets.

Speakers welcomed the move to cut the red tape required to bring our four legged friends out foreign.

Manchester ferret
English MEP Chris Davies spoke lovingly of his pet – a Manchester ferret named Pod who became “the proud owner of a passport of his own” 10 years ago.

Davies imagined that when the EU introduced this travel document, “dogs were excited, ferrets were inquisitive and cats were indifferent, because cats are always indifferent.”

Seán Kelly rose to represent Ireland’s view.

“I, myself, am a cat man. I have 10 cats, and I take grave exception to Mr Davies’s remark that cats are indifferent. On the contrary, they are very engaging and very cuddly and while you have cats, you’ll have no rats or mice, so they serve a dual purpose.”

Now, the serious bit:

“The rapporteur mentioned that in Europe we have 64 millun cats, 66 millun dogs and if he had added 10 millun barrels of porter, he could have been singing that great Irish song, The Irish Rover.”

You see? It’s not all about straightening bananas in Strasbourg. Good man Seán.

The authorities in Leinster House are always trying to encourage staff and politicians to pursue a healthier lifestyle.

Close the bar, some might say, although these days the coffee machines are busier than the beer pumps.

Healthy menus have been introduced in the restaurants. The gym – located across the road on Kildare Street – is open to anyone on the Oireachtas payroll and is very popular with staff and politicians.

The pilates classes in the fitness room are proving hugely popular. We hear Gerry Adams has signed up. He was stretching away with the best of them this week.

Signs of a more flexible Sinn Féin? He’ll have to get a little pair of shorts for Ted too.

The Sinn Féin leader was seen belting out the Merrion Street gate on Wednesday on a bike. “He’s putting us younger men to shame,” reported our man in Lycra.

“Enda Kenny had better watch out, he has a rival in the cycling stakes.”

No doubt our own Fintan O’Toole – the cyclists’ friend – will be delighted at the news.

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