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Saturday 21 October 2017

Fionnuala and Michelle in double act

FIONNUALA Kenny took centre stage as she introduced Michelle Obama's inspiring speech at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin.

At a special performance of 'Riverdance', the Taoiseach's wife described Mrs Obama as "a woman of real substance".

Flanked by a resplendent-in-pink Sabina Higgins, wife of President Michael D Higgins, Mrs Kenny spoke confidently and passionately about the enormous goodwill towards the Obama's extended family in Ireland.

Mrs Kenny's warmth was combined with good humour, telling the hordes of excited schoolchildren that every word she spoke prevented them from hearing the woman they had come to see.

Mrs Kenny said: "The First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama is certainly one of the most warm, intelligent, beautiful, caring, energetic, fun, great dancer and I could go on and on.

"On that wonderful day two years ago in 2011, when she and her husband Barack Obama visited, she told me she really wanted to come back someday with her daughters so they could get to know and appreciate their Irishness.

"I am delighted that today both Malia and Sasha got their certificates of Irishness," she added, her friendship with Mrs Obama evident all the while.

"This is terrific that they have made the journey here today and I think it is truly fitting that Michelle and Sasha and Malia arrive at this time – the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy when he came home to Ireland.

"Unfortunately President Kennedy never got to keep his promise that he would be back again in the spring but I am sure like us he would be very proud that another First American Family are making that journey today.

"I hope that on your brief visit that you can sense the enormous goodwill of your extended Irish family and that you feel at home and at ease with us."

Mrs Obama then spoke inspirationally, before the two women exchanged a warm hug and left the stage holding hands.

It marked an extraordinary 24-hour transition from the ridiculous to the sublime for the First Lady of Irish politics.

On Sunday night her home in Castlebar, Mayo, was picketed by masked protesters.

Mrs Kenny was at home with her youngest son Ferdia who answered the door to the protesters.

They left after gardai were called to their home.

The gulf in the security regimes for both women and their families was evident yesterday in Dublin's Gaiety Theatre where gaggles of ultra-patient schoolchildren acted bemused in the presence of American Secret Service agents.

Fionnuala Kenny normally remains in the background and leaves most of the public speaking to her husband.

But she has ample experience of communicating the right message.

The mother of three was Charlie Haughey's glamorous and talented Fianna Fail press officer and later head of Government Information Services, all during the Fianna Fail upheavals of the 1980s and early 1990s.

The Taoiseach's wife, political adviser, image-setter, cook, child-carer and best friend, has no interest in returning to the limelight.

By Dearbhail McDonald

Irish Independent

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