Hero Bertie drinks toast at local

 

"Good oul Bertie, bringing him to Drumcondra." The words of a regular in Fagan's lounge just before the US President arrived. Those within earshot cheered.

If Bertie wasn't a hero in his native Drumcondra on Dublin's northside already, he certainly was after taking the US President, First Lady and their daughter to his local for a drink.

Notice of the unscheduled stopover was short. Bar owner Mr Eamonn O'Malley said he only learnt of the possibility that Mr Clinton and his entourage would be dropping in, in the early morning.

The presence of uniformed and special branch gardai around the premises attracted attention, however, and by lunchtime, locals were gathering and rumours about whether the Clintons would call were rife.

The dilemma was whether to wait in the front bar or the lounge. Those who chose the lounge were the fortunate ones, for shortly after 4.30 p.m. Mr Clinton's limousine pulled up at the side door and his party entered with the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, and his partner, Ms Celia Larkin.

Mr Clinton and his wife, Mrs Hillary Rodham Clinton, moved about easily, shaking hands with customers as they walked towards the bar. Mr Clinton was served a glass of Carlsberg, Mr Ahern a pint of Bass, and Mrs Clinton, Ms Chelsea Clinton and Ms Celia Larkin drank spring water.

In 15 years of bar work, Mr Peter Roe never quite had a moment like this. To him fell the privilege of serving Mr Clinton and his entourage. "He said it was wonderful to be here and said this was a beautiful place," he said.

Mr Clinton shook hands with all the bar and kitchen staff. Ms Tina Kirwan, a kitchen assistant, was standing on a stool in the background when the President waved at her to come forward.

"I thought he was very down to earth to do that. He said he was pleased to meet me and I said I was pleased to meet him. I told him I had been watching him on television all morning and he said `good for you'," she recalled.

Mr Eamonn O'Malley said he was absolutely thrilled to entertain Mr Clinton, even if the visit lasted less than 10 minutes. "If somebody told me a few days ago they would come to Fagan's I would not have believed it," he said.

Ms Simone Clifford from the Navan Road got to shake hands with Mr and Mrs Clinton. "They both gave very warm handshakes. I don't think it has actually hit me yet that I got to meet them. I suppose it will sink in later," she said.