Monday 23 April 2018

Bono: We talked about everything and nothing

The wife of the world's most powerful man is sitting across the table eating fish and chips at your local.

The stuff of dreams for most mere mortals, but for U2 frontman and self-styled anti-poverty campaigner Bono it's just another lunch at the top table.

 

"We talked about everything and nothing," the rock star said.

 

"It was a family lunch."

 

Bono had invited First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha to his local pub, Finnegan's in Dalkey, the exclusive south Dublin seaside town.

 

And President Barack Obama's leading ladies eased their way into the supposed secret gathering.

 

Bono had arrived with wife Ali Hewson at about 1pm and remarked at the hundreds of onlookers: "I thought this was supposed to be secret."

 

The Obamas looked like a regular American family holidaying in Ireland as they wrapped up their visit with a traditional pub lunch.

 

Hundreds of locals had crammed the narrow streets outside Finnegan's on Sorrento Road, hoping to catch a glimpse of the girls.

 

The First Lady had lobster to start and they all dined on fish and chips, with cookies and tea for dessert, with around 60 guests.

 

The lunch appeared so relaxed that Donal Finnegan, one of the owners of the family-run pub, was unfazed.

 

"They were in holiday mode, just like any other family we get in here," Mr Finnegan said.

 

Then again the pub is no stranger to A-listers, with Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz and Mel Gibson among the big names to call in.

 

Mr Finnegan's said Mrs Obama was "delightful", and the girls "quiet and well mannered".

 

But ever the epitome of discretion, the publican shed no light on who took care of the bill, saying only that Bono is a regular, coming in two or three times a week when at home.

 

Finnegan's had been closed to the public all morning with the Stars and Stripes draped from a flag pole over the front door, a tell tale sign the rumours of a VIP visit were correct.

 

Waitress June Hart looked after their table.

 

With 14 years' service at the pub under her belt, Mr Finnegan said there was no better woman for the job.

 

And while the world famous customers were "gracious and polite", Ms Hart refused to talk about tips, saying it was a privilege to wait on them.

 

The Obamas made a quick exit from the building after about 90 minutes, heading north to meet President Barack Obama and travel on to Germany for the latest leg of his European meetings.

 

But their departure was not be complete before Mrs Obama's hairstylist was summoned from a waiting jeep to the pub, no doubt to check her hair for the cameras.

 

The stylist, a sharply-dressed man with a Hollywood smile, teased the waiting press pack as he walked from the pub to his car, one of 12 in the cavalcade.

 

"How does it feel?" he asked as he held up his phone to take a picture of ranks of photographers.

 

The Obamas had enjoyed a two-day whistle-stop visit of Ireland, which included a private guided tour of the Wicklow Mountains National Park in the morning.

 

The sun was shining for their trip to Glendalough, but the heat brought swarms of unwelcome visitors - hungry midges, forcing 12-year-old Sasha to flail her arms as she toured monastic ruins.

 

They were given a lesson on the sixth century site founded by St Kevin by local tour guide George McClafferty.

 

The valley, in the heart of the Wicklow mountains, offers some of the most popular rural landscapes in Ireland and is a well-worn tourist path for visitors to the east coast.

 

The trio learned about the legendary Deer Stone when Mr McClafferty told the tale of a wild doe appearing before St Kevin who milked it and fed two orphan babies from the hollowed-out stone.

 

Dressed in a casual outdoor jacket, patterned white jeans and grey Converse trainers, Mrs Obama nodded and smiled, asking the guide questions about the legend.

 

Her daughters paid close attention too, looking around the hills in their jeans and trainers - Malia in a classic navy hoodie, while Sasha wore a baggy grey jumper.

 

Mr McClafferty took a seat on the famous stone as he shared some of the folklore of the site, founded in the sixth century.

 

"That gives great power," Mrs Obama told him as she triumphantly raised her fists in the air.

 

The Obamas were shown around the monastic ruins in the heart of the glacial valley and walked around the round tower, and Sasha was given the honour of closing the door to the ruins of St Kevin's Church, which dates back 1500 years.

 

The teenager was handed a key and she locked the door, before turning to her older sister and mum, giving them a high five.

 

They may be used to dining with rock stars, dignitaries and the world's powerbrokers, but the Obama girls, together, appear just a regular family.

Press Association

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