Taoiseach's tribute as our own 'green man' returns from space
GROUND Control to Commander Chris – come and visit Ireland. It appears that even the Taoiseach is a fan of Ireland's latest honorary son, commander of the International Space Station (ISS) Chris Hadfield.
The 53-year-old astronaut may be Canadian, but during his five months in orbit 370km above the Earth, he became our unofficial green man in space.
Cmdr Hadfield hit headlines by posting a series of stunning photographs of our country while circling the planet, then tweeted as Gaeilge, before it emerged his daughter is living here.
Yesterday, as he prepared to make the perilous descent back to terra firma, Enda Kenny paid warm tribute to the comm- ander.
"It's an amazing perspective on our world, not just the pictures he has taken, but his ability to see the beauty of our planet.
"Sometimes we need others to see how we're really doing and it was a great fillip when he said 'ta Eire fioralainn', and gave Ireland the thumbs up on St Patrick's Day," he told the Irish Independent.
And when asked if he had any plans to meet Cmdr Hadfield in person, the Taoiseach was enthusiastic. "If he ever wishes to visit Ireland I would of course be happy to meet him," he said.
On March 15, just before he headed over to the US for his annual St Patrick's Day visit to the White House, the Taoiseach used the official government twitter account, @merrionstreet.ie, to send a message and a video to the Canadian astronaut. "@Cmdr_Hadfield Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny asks if you can keep an eye out for the 'greening' of the globe on Paddy's Day!"
A video was also posted to the astronaut with a YouTube link attached: "@CmdrHadfield here's the video where the Taoiseach talks about your cool view of the world!"
And indeed Enda did give the commander of the ISS a shout-out in the clip which was posted on the government website. "Did you know we have a resident Gaelgoir, or Irish speaker on the International Space Station?
"And as Commander Chris Hadfield sends out his tweets he can keep an eye out for the green effect," he said.
And much to the delight of the Taoiseach, a reply came zinging back from the ISS almost immediately. "I am looking forward to St Patrick's Day, and can see the whole diaspora from here – have some space surprises planned," Chris tweeted back.
He was as good as his word. On March 17, he posted a video recording of him singing 'Danny Boy' dressed in green jumper, shirt and bowtie.
Cmdr Hadfield also famously sent the first-ever tweet as Gaeilge from space – courtesy of his daughter Kristen who is studying psychology in Trinity College.
And as Kristen has said that she expects a visit from her dad on his return, it looks like there may be a sprinkling of stardust over Government Buildings someday soon.