Wednesday 26 October 2016

Rain doesn't spoil 'nicest day' for Chinese Premier

Published 18/05/2015 | 02:30

Chinese Premier, Li Kegiang accompanied by his wife Professor Cheng Hong
Chinese Premier, Li Kegiang accompanied by his wife Professor Cheng Hong

One of the world's most powerful men dropped into a family farm in Mayo yesterday where even persistent rain couldn't dampen high spirits.

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and his wife, Prof Cheng Hong, were joined by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, his wife Fionnuala and a delegation of ministers from both sides as the China contingent enjoyed a two-day stop-over here.

But a visit to a third-generation family farm in Headford proved the highlight of the trip, with the second-in-command of China's 1.3 billion population quickly winning over the youngest members of the household with a range of gifts, including a china doll for 11-year-old Gráinne.

Despite the constant rain, the couple happily enjoyed a tour of the farm, taking in the dairy cows, newborn calves and even some ducks, albeit none of the Peking variety, as the premier felt the need to mention.

After a thorough soaking, the group fled to a newly erected marquee where the flying footwork of some of the country's best Irish dancers had them clapping enthusiastically.

So taken were the couple with the performance that Premier Li informed current world champion 18-year-old Colm Conneely that he was welcome to perform in China any time.

Yet it was the youngest member of the troop, Dara Kelly (13), who captured the attention of the premier's wife, who described him as a "very handsome boy".

"I'm pretty happy with that," said Dara, who has been dancing for eight years.

After the show, the pair were whisked away for a private cup of tea in the farmhouse with hosts Cathal and Mary Garvey and their six children.

A variety of the country's best produce was laid on for the couple but such was the clamour for a word with them that enjoying a quiet cuppa quickly fell off the agenda.

"They got to enjoy some of the homemade bread that Cathal's mother made but they didn't actually get a chance for tea, there were too many people looking to chat to them," said Mary Garvey.

The youngest member of the clan, six-year-old Donal, was the apple of their eye, especially when he tried out his recently acquired Chinese. "I know 'shi shi' and 'ni hao'. That means thank you and hello. They liked that," he said.

His sister Gráinne also enjoyed a private chat with Prof Cheng as the premier's wife wrapped her arms around the young schoolgirl and sheltered her from the rain.

Dad Cathal revealed how relaxed the couple were during the visit, adding: "They were awful pleasant. You wouldn't feel pressurised with them at all. They were really taken with the family and the kids. With the fact that we were doing this, all this farming, as a family.

"They really wanted to meet all the kids. They had games and toys and a china doll for the kids. There was a present for my parents as well, one for good health and long life," he said.

In return, Cathal presented the premier with his own 22-year-old bottle of Midleton Rare whiskey as a memento of his trip, with Prof Cheng thanking each of the family individually for showing them "the nicest day".

Irish Independent

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