Society: Breege celebrates honour in style
What a night to toast Ireland's most senior female retailer in the chic surroundings of the Ailesbury Road home of French Ambassador HE Jean-Pierre Thébault.
Our glasses of bubbles were raised to Breege O'Donoghue, the first ever female board member of Penneys/Primark, on the occasion of her being knighted as a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur.
The titian-haired septuagenarian executive director of Primark looked très elegant in a Dolce & Gabbana ensemble of green-and-cream striped kaftan over trousers and a matching red-striped bag.
Breege was surrounded by her family (pictured far right) with her brother Michael coming from the family home in Boston, north Clare, and her sisters, Ursula Nally, Ann Flanagan, Mary Bennett and Patricia Hannigan.
It was lovely to meet up again with Primark CEO Paul Marchant and the rest of the board, who I last met at a dinner in Marseillies when Primark opened in France in 2013. This week they opened their seventh French store at Polygone Riviera in Cagnes-sur-Mer.
Addressing Breege, the Ambassador had us laughing as he recalled "when I first met you, I was impressed, first because you were not undiplomatic at all, but I like it... straight forward... and the second thing is because you love France".
An impressive orator, Breege spoke in French and English, and had us giggling in our bubbles as she recounted how the Irish love cognac and the wines of Bordeaux, "and in the 18th century, they drank more Bordeaux wine than the English", she noted.
"Not all of it was duty paid, and on the west coast of Ireland in the old days, near when I was born, many a ship slipped past the customers and excise men to deliver the precious cargo. You could call it the beginning of the Single Market," she declared, with a glint in her eye.
It was a lovely, intimate gathering and Breege, who is stepmother to 10 grown-up children, was surrounded by the family of her late husband, Dr James St Laurence O'Dea. Breege said she had a treasured photo of her late husband as a young boy on holidays in Normandy, when travel to France was a rarity.
"I was also to learn later in France that the St Laurence in his name came from a centuries-old French influence on names in his place of origin, Kinvara," a place where French and Irish history is "wonderfully interwoven".
Burritos are on me boys, says Darragh
By Bairbre Power
You have to hand it to professional rugby players, they are very driven. Take Leinster's no 10, Ian Madigan, who is Bordeaux-bound next season. Ian was heading off to French classes when I met himself and his girlfriend, Anna Kirwan, at the opening of the new Zambrero restaurant on Hatch Street.
Leinster's Darragh Fanning discovered the fast service chain specialising in healthy Mexican food when he was playing rugby in Australia with St Mary's College. It was a fun night on a sad day for Darragh who earlier announced he was retiring from rugby. He marked it by treating the team, including Kearney brothers Rob and Dave, to a free dinner in his new eaterie.
I bumped into Renault's affable Paddy McGee, Leinster's Mike McCarthy - proud dad to six-month-old Lola - and Devin Toner with his fiancée Mary Scott. I also met Wendy Honner, glam girlfriend of golfer Shane Lowry.
Theatre and thermals at Kilmainham Gaol
By Kirsty Blake Knox
'They were only married 10 minutes," Joseph O'Connor said of Joseph Mary Plunkett and Grace Clifford's fleeting union.
"Which is probably why they were so happy."
O'Connor is one of eight writers taking part in Tony-winning director Patrick Mason's promenade theatre show Signatories.
The piece will be staged inside Kilmainham Gaol with Oscar-nominated Emma Donoghue, Tom Kilroy, and Frank McGuinness all penning 10-minute monologues.
Seven of the pieces will centre around the signatories of the Proclamation while one tells the story of nurse Elizabeth O'Farrell, who delivered the rebels' surrender.
The idea for the show was dreamt up by Frank McGuinness over a pot of hot tea. He will write about Éamonn Ceannt while O'Connor is looking after Joseph Mary Plunkett.
"It's quite a dark subject but I've tried to get some humour in there," O'Connor said.
"Hopefully it comes across. I wanted to write about Plunkett for years. He's a curious mix of contradictions. I found him fascinating."
The award-winning author has a lot on his plate at the moment. He's writing another novel and will take to the stage of the National Concert Hall in the coming weeks with Glen Hansard for an evening of singing and reading.
"I have a very jammy life," he said. "Totally and completely undeserved, I should add."
O'Connor and the rest of the writers gathered in a rather frosty Kilmainham this week with director Patrick Mason to walk through the set. "I'm telling people to wear thermals and bring coats," Mason said. "But we'll keep them moving so hopefully it won't be too cold."
The show will kick off on the actual anniversary of the rising on April 24.
Marina Carr, who has written Thomas McDonagh's monologue, admitted hitting the books in preparation for the show.
"My Irish history is dreadful so I had to swat up and I loved it," she said.
Love/Hate star Stephen Jones will take on the role of McDonagh, Peter Gaynor will play Padraig Pearse in a piece written by Thomas Kilroy, while theatre stalwart Barbara Brennan will take on the role of Nurse Elizabeth O'Farrell.
"You rarely get to perform in a space loaded with so much meaning," director Mason told the gathered reporters. "But I wasn't joking about wrapping up."
Foodie duo rustle up a tasty new venture
By Kirsty Blake Knox
'We're the Meryl Streep of the food world," James Kavanagh, aka Ireland's undisputed Snapchat King, tells me. "Classy, does an amazing job but still likes to have fun."
After months of planning and plotting, James and his other-half William Murray have launched their new food venture, Currabinny.
The duo's passion for all things culinary was ignited when William enrolled at Ballymaloe after finishing art college.
Soon the pair decided the "food life" was for them and have been rustling up moreish treats such as Glamnilla Shortbread (biscuits dusted in edible gold, obvs) and Ruby Chard Korma since.
The boys set up shop at Teelings Craft Fair and their baked goods went down a treat and a dream with punters.
The pair cite Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson and Darina Allen as their inspiration. "Nigella's food is porn for the belly," James says. "And Darina is the matriarch of eating well in Ireland."
Across town, Stork were hosting a vintage style-bakery class.
The Restaurant's Louise Lennox showed guests how to whip up perfect chocolate and pink vanilla Schichttortes. Gramophone DJ Colm Olwill played Fats Waller while we iced cakes and sipped Prosecco.
Getting down to beauty business at 'The Bobs'
By Bairbre Power
The Image Businesss of Beauty Awards - affectionately known as The Bobs - attracted a very glamourous crowd to Dublin's DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel on Sunday night.
Firmly established as Ireland's hair and beauty Oscars, Melanie Morris, Editor in Chief of Image Publications, did a swell job hosting the event and wowed us with her silver heels, while Darren Kennedy MC'd the night.
Among the most popular awards on the night was the Beauty Innovator going to Mark O'Keeffe of Sugar Culture. Last month he opened his third Brown Sugar salon, in Ranelagh, and he also has Sugar Cubed and male offering Sugar Daddy.
I had a lovely night sitting with the Image Publications team, Laura George, Editorial Director and Clodagh Edwards, CEO. The Innovative Skin Care award went to Seavite and it was collected by sisters Drs Jane and Katherine Mulrooney, whose parents, Kaye and Patrick, started the brand.