Midges make the most of Obamas at Glendalough
A tour of the monastic site was followed by a trip to Dalkey for lunch with Bono
US first lady Michelle Obama and her two daughters Sasha and Malia fight off an unwelcome attack of midges at Glendalough. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire
Glendalough – a wondrous place of myth and mystic beauty where the “midgets” are the size of horses and would ate ya alive without salt.
We were warned about them in advance. “They’ll be going down to see the Deer’s Stone, but we’ll be pulling everyone out if the midgets start causing problems,” said a garda.
It’s no wonder the CIA men looked so nervous, with all this talk from their Irish counterparts of ferocious “midgets” descending the Wickla mountains and feasting on the blood of innocents.
How were they supposed to know there is a major problem with the pronunciation of the word “midges” in Ireland? It must have been very confusing for them.
Under the circumstances, it was very brave of the Obama women to venture into the open at all. In the end, the vicious “midgets” caused havoc and sent them running for cover.
Young Sasha and Malia, behaving as any teenage girls would, pulled faces and told their mother they wanted to go.
“Bloody midgets,” cursed one of the guards, “they’re a menace.” But the photographers were delighted. At least they got a reaction.
Oh, but Michelle Obama’s second day in Ireland was great fun. From the “midgets” in Glendalough to Bono in Dalkey, a sort of madness took over in the summer sun.
The tone was set in Wicklow. “Have a good day!” said smiling local gardaí stopping the cars.
At the venue, bags were sniffed by dogs and everyone was told to line up so they could be “wanded”.
”I beg your pardon!” shrieked the ladies of a certain age. A metal detector “wand” was then flourished about their persons, setting off all manner of alarms. “That would be the wiring in your bras, ladies.”
We wandered down to the stalls beside the Glendalough Hotel. Stallholder Mick Quinn was hoping Michelle and her girls might call down for a browse of his jumpers and tea-towels. If they did, he was confident of making a sale.
“I’d sell prams to nuns,” he said confidently.
It was a beautiful day, as Bono might have sung were he present, but he was waiting in his Dalkey local for the arrival of his pals from the White House.
Finally the motorcade arrived. With a battalion of security suits in tow, the media was led along a forest path and positioned on a mucky knoll from where there was an excellent view of the ancient graveyard, round tower and St Kevin’s Kitchen.
The first lady and her daughters, with George McClafferty of the Glendalough Visitor Centre acting as their guide, ambled into view. It was a beautiful, tranquil scene among the ferns and scented summer honeysuckle. There was a hush in our little glade. Birdsong provided background music. The small group came closer to the mythical Deer’s Stone.
They looked on as George explained the lore behind it, Michelle in rapt attention, the two girls flapping their arms and pulling their sleeves over their hands.
Suddenly, into the sylvan stillness rose a familiar voice from a hummock of bracken. “They’re being eaten alive, Myles, eaten alive!” It was Valerie Cox, broadcasting to the Pat Kenny Show. She wasn’t wrong either.
The scratching entourage gathered for the retreat. They hightailed it to the Upper Lake, where we hope the girls found some respite.
Then it was off to Dalkey. We had to rely on Mary Mitchell O’Connor for updates. She was ensconced in Finnegan’s and tweeting to the world. The Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire is a friend of the owners and taught most of the part-time lounge staff who were looking after the Obamas for lunch.
She tweeted pictures of Bono chatting with the regulars and then pictures of Michelle and Bono. This was the shot everyone wanted. Mary got a photographer’s credit on the front page of this newspaper’s website and the BBC and CNN rang for permission to use her work.
“I went viral,” she said later, making it sound like she’d been bitten by “midgets” too.
Donal Finnegan, who runs the establishment with his father Dan and brothers Paul, Alan and Neil, said later that the Obamas just wanted “the Irish pub lunch experience”.
Michelle had lobster and fresh local fish and real chips. . The children sat at a separate table with Bono’s two boys.
There was a carnival atmosphere outside, with a heady closing time atmosphere inside – dark and giddy, but their guests were allowed their space. They were two hours inside having lunch. Bono mustn’t have had much to say.
Then it was time to go. Michelle got straight into her people carrier, smiling and giving a special wave to the primary schoolgirls from Loreto with their posies of sweet pea and freesia.
Then the media – hysterical from “midget” bites and sunburn – rushed the pub, pinning chef Paul Finnegan up against a wall until he told them about the menu.
Afterwards, Bono and his wife had to be rescued by the local constabulary after the crowd surged inside and journalists lost the plot. The Hewsons squeezed into their Masarati and were engulfed by well-wishers.
“That’s ridiculous. Sure he’s in here all the time and nobody minds him,” harrumphed a neighbour.
“Great for Dalkey, great for Dublin and great for Ireland,” said Donal Finnegan.
And then the party started.