Festivities end on a sour note with public row in hotel lobby
Published 19/03/2014 | 02:30
THE Taoiseach has attempted to play down an embarrassing public row between the Irish Ambassador to the United States, Anne Anderson, and Ireland's most senior civil servant, Martin Fraser, which erupted in New York on the morning of St Patrick's Day.
The angry scene took place in the foyer of Fitzpatrick's Hotel in Manhattan, when Mr Fraser, the Secretary General at the Department of the Taoiseach, called aside Ms Anderson and a heated exchange between the two ensued.
Ms Anderson was heard telling the government official: "I am not a liar."
However, yesterday Mr Kenny dismissed the incident, telling reporters in New York: "I do not know what you're talking about. I'm here on very different business and I have no interest in that."
He added: "As far as I'm concerned, every delegation that I go on, we always have healthy conversations on the issues of the day, so I just don't know what you're talking about."
The Taoiseach was speaking at the final engagement of his six-day visit to the US, where he attended a question-and-answer session at business group Grant Thornton. Both Mr Fraser and Ms Anderson were also present at the event, but they declined to comment on the incident.
The row occurred shortly after midnight on Monday morning, and broke out after the Taoiseach and members of his delegation returned to the hotel after dining at famous steakhouse, Smith & Wollensky.
Mr Kenny had gone to his room, but various members of the group were still in the lobby when, according to one witness, Mr Fraser approached Ambassador Anderson and indicated he wanted to speak to her.
The two stood behind a pillar in the area, but the argument was audible to other hotel guests. At one juncture, the ambassador reportedly said: "You are calling me a liar, Martin. I am not a liar. It was a misunderstanding."
And as the 10-minute confrontation progressed, she added, "If I had known what the Taoiseach wanted, of course I would have done what he wanted." The pair continued to argue until they departed the lobby in an elevator.
It is unknown what sparked the argument. The government delegation had arrived from Boston earlier in the evening before heading out to dinner in the nearby restaurant.
Although one member of the delegation yesterday described the incident as "a storm in a teacup", it is clear that there were still tensions on St Patrick's Day. One insider who sat close to Ms Anderson at Mass in St Patrick's Cathedral, which was attended by the Taoiseach, said: "She was very subdued which is not like her."
There was no evidence of any previous tensions between Ireland's first female ambassador to the US and the Government's Secretary General. Mr Fraser was appointed to the country's top civil service post in August 2011. He usually maintains a very low public profile.
However, the confrontation ensured that the Taoiseach's visit to the US, which had been dogged by controversy over the exclusion of LGBT groups from the St Patrick's Day parades in Boston and New York, ended on an embarrassing note.