Miriam Lord: Enda enjoys being a big part of it in New York
He may be Trump’s new friend but Kenny’s real love is a parade
Taoiseach Enda Kenny holding seven-month-old Savannah Marie during the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
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The Taoiseach blew into New York on the final leg of his Touraloora Tour Friday. The farewell performance, according to everyone except Enda.
He was in excellent humour following his trips to the White House and Capitol Hill on Thursday. He rounded off his big day at a reception in his honour at the Irish Embassy in Washington. Among the guests clamouring for a selfie with Enda was his long-time tormentor in the Dáil Mattie McGrath.
We’re not sure what Mattie was doing in DC, but he ended up bagging a photo of himself and the Taoiseach for posterity. Perhaps he was on constituency-related business. Whatever about Washington, half of Tipperary seemed to be marching in the New York St Patrick’s Day parade.
There was also a big contingent there from Mayo. In a happy coincidence the Mayo Society just rolled up to the reviewing platform area as Enda was finishing an interview with New York’s equivalent of Dessie Cahill and Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh. His media adviser was ecstatic.
“Stay there! Don’t move” he shouted to the be-sashed sons and daughters of Mayo as they marked time on the spot. “Oh, this is great. This is just the best. Oh, this is marvellous.” It’s been a long week for the man, in fairness.
The Taoiseach spotted his people, and dived in for a photograph with the Mayo Society president James Prendergast from Coolcon, near Claremorris, and Mike McMahon from Irishtown, who was named their Mayo man of the Year because of all the charity work he does.
Enda loves parades. He walked about 20 blocks this year, meeting up with the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, along the way. Then he had a rendezvous with Cardinal Timothy Dolan on the steps of St Patrick’s Cathedral, where a huge crowd had gathered.
But he missed Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was marching ahead of him, waving a little Irish Tricolour as he made his way along the parade route.
Everyone wanted to talk to Enda. This was more like it. He may be Donald Trump’s new friend, but the American president isn’t a big talker. When they held their meeting, he listened to what Enda had to say on a variety of matters but invariably designated one of his team to respond.
Early morning train
The Taoiseach travelled to New York from Washington on an early morning train. He had his own people and a Secret Service detail in tow, but there was no big fuss about the trip. Just before the train departed, a young woman rushed in and sank into the seat beside him.
Suddenly she realised she was the centre of attention, with the worried looking officers scrutinising her closely as if ready to pounce, and the staffers in a tizzy.
“Eh, is he... are you somebody famous? Should I be here? Will I go?”
“Not at all. Schtay where you are. You’re grand!”
They ended up nattering away and she took a shed load of selfies.
While it’s still very chilly in New York and all the snow hasn’t melted, it was a lovely sunny day for the parade.
Members of an Garda Síochána marched in great numbers – two different batches of them. Was there anyone left at home to mind the place, we wondered? And who paid for their fares? We could see another commission in the distance. More questions for Nóirín.
Thankfully, Garda Lisa McEntee, who is stationed in Ardee, was able to put us right. All the officers who take part pay their own way and take time from their annual leave. Lisa’s parents, Brian and Angela, from Lattan in Co Monaghan, were also in the city to watch her in the parade. They are in the US celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.
The high point of the parade for Enda came when he was handed the perfect photo opportunity by Mike Cassels from Drumshanbo in Co Leitrim. The proud grandfather was holding seven-month-old Savannah Marie in his arms, and she looked a perfect picture in her little báinin hat and jumper and bootees and emerald green tights.
Swooped and posed
Accordingly, the photographers nearly flattened them with excitement when the Taoiseach swooped and posed with the baby, who looked almost as unimpressed as Trump did during his photocall the day before. She even stuck out her bottom lip in a petulant pout. Enda must have been having flashbacks.
He expertly displayed Savannah for the cameras, informing everyone that he could divine no evidence of a wet nappy.
Then he heard an Irish sounding shout and next minute he was in conversation at the crash barriers with the Carneys from Tramore in Co Waterford – mam and dad Patsy and Phillipa and kids Tom and Alana. They are over on a holiday “with some work thrown in”, and couldn’t believe it when they saw the Taoiseach.
The Secret Service guys were a bit ill at ease with this carry-on. “Is he always like this,” asked one. “He sure likes to talk.”
Minister of State Joe McHugh was marching alongside Enda. He was wearing a Donegal scarf. “I am here representing all of Donegal today and not just my parish,” he said.
There was a final interview to get out of the way. A few cursory questions about Trump and then lots on when the Taoiseach intends to name the day. When will he step down as leader. There was never a chance he was going to give a straight answer. And he didn’t.
There’s the whole situation with the Northern Assembly to be sorted now. And, God almighty, but there’s Brexit still to be tackled.
“I’ve a number of immediate priorities on my desk when I arrive back tomorrow morning at ten, and I intend to start work on those,” Enda declared.
“This has been a very successful trip and I genuinely mean that.”
The questions on his future were a waste of time. A quiz on vice-president Mike Pence would have been much better fun. Pence gave, essentially, the same mawkish speech about his Irish heritage at least four times during the Taoiseach’s visit.
What colour is his mother’s hair? Red.
What colour are her eyes? Blue
What was the name of the ship which took his granddaddy to Amerikay? The Andania.
What did the old woman say to him when he was a young man working in an Irish bar? “You have a face like a map of Ireland.”
And so on.
Our favourite Enda story is from Pence’s breakfast at his residence. The Taoiseach tailored his words with the conservative evangelical vice-president in mind.
He told of a visit to the president of Notre Dame University in his home state of Indiana, and this priest told him how “the Blessed Virgin resplendent in the sunshine” on the dome of the chapel which he could see from his office window helped him when he had a problem. He would look out that window and say “this one’s for you, baby!”
Great visit. And even the media weren’t the worst behaved in the Oval Office. That honour goes to the Japanese.