Purchase of a new jumper brings traffic to standstill


President Clinton went on an impromptu shopping trip with his family in Dublin yesterday evening - and almost shut down traffic movement in the city centre for about an hour.

The Clintons chose Blarney Woollen Mills in Nassau Street, traditionally one of the favourite shopping attractions for Americans visiting Dublin. Workers on a building site who wolf-whistled at Chelsea Clinton and the First Lady were rewarded with good-natured waves.

The unexpected arrival caused disruption in the city, however, as US secret service agents sought to remove people to a distance from the shop front, pushing onlookers and media away.

Gardai stopped traffic from approaching the area, setting up diversions as far away as the quays. As the Garda helicopter circled overhead, traffic became gridlocked for about a square mile between the Financial Services Centre and St Stephen's Green, encompassing College Green and approaches to Dame Street. A Garda boat patrolled the Liffey.

As dusk fell, the combination of lorries emerging from Dublin port and heavy rain did not fray tempers. Motorists rolled down windows, shouting to one another remarks to the effect that, "It's the Clintons - they've gone walkabout".

However, the weather put paid to any intentions of an impromptu walkabout and the trip took in only a half-hour visit to the shop during which Mr Clinton bought a jumper from Blarney Woollen Mills' own Fishermen range. He also bought some John Rocha glassware, some Waterford Crystal decorations and ties in a Celtic design. The purchases came to almost £200.

Blarney Woollen Mills later said it had been told to expect Chelsea Clinton but shortly before the visit was to take place it was revealed that the President and the First Lady would be coming as well.

The Clinton family was welcomed to the shop by manager Ms Denise O'Mahony and assistant Ms Aisling McShane. He was served by Ms Orla Daly and Ms Catherine Donohoe who said he had been extremely charming.