Hillary wheels up to the DCU campus


BLEARY-eyed students studying for their summer exams at Dublin City University were provided yesterday with an early-morning distraction.

It came in the shape of arguably the most famous female politician in the world, Hillary Clinton, and several burly security men prowling the university's campus.

However, the best-laid plans of her security detail, complete with microphones in sleeves, could not cope with sleepy-looking students plodding through "protected zones" and "cleared pathways" and generally getting in the way.

"Can you please hold it right there, sir?" one non-plussed student was asked as he ambled towards the library.

He was told to stand perfectly still until the senator's cavalcade had swept past him into DCU.

"OK, it's all clear. It's wheels down," the security man said, relieved.

Whether wheels were up or down, the mood was good, and on the final day of her Dublin visit the New York state senator looked surprisingly fresh after her day of meetings and shopping on Tuesday.

She also revealed to her DCU hosts that after Tuesday's hectic schedule she spent part of her evening having a drink at her hotel with U2 singer Bono.

Speaking to students and academics, she lavished praise on the singer and said he had done a lot "to make the case that the powerless in our society deserve our attention".

While reporters marvelled once again at the singer's level of access to senior politicans, the senator herself received pop-star adulation from a large group of students standing behind barriers anxious to shake her hand and welcome her to DCU.

Few of them had time to exchange words, although one, Julie Clinton, a mature student from Co Louth, remarked on the two women sharing the same name.

After that it was inside to make an announcement about the setting up of a bio-pharma research institute planned by DCU, Athlone Institute of Technology and two American colleges.

The DCU president, Dr Ferdinand von Prondzynski, went beyond mere pop-star adulation. "The senator is one of my all-time heroes," he told students and academics.

As the senator herself might say, "Glasnevin ain't no Manhattan", and to make her feel she was in her home (or is that adopted?) state, the announcement was made against a backdrop of the set of Fame, which is currently being staged by DCU's drama society.

Earlier she had met some of the college's researchers from a campus company, Archport, and members of the National Institute of Cellular Biotechnology.

While most of the assembled media struggled with the complexities of their work on diabetes and cancer, the senator effortlessly wove the details into her often ad-libbed speech to the students and staff.

"I do hope I will be able to return here again," she told the audience.

She said she was a fan of city universities, and DCU seemed to be a great example of one. And with that she was gone, in a fleet of black cars, as the students reluctantly trundled back to the library.