Sunday 17 December 2017

Enda feels right at home as trip comes to an end

Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

Given the Ark-like weather conditions at home, maybe Taoiseach Enda Kenny was well advised to extol his appreciation for Irish rain on foreign soil.

Comparing the weather in Seattle to Mayo at a reception, Mr Kenny said he was reading the previous night what the journalist Richard Pyle said about Seattle in 'Wintergreen' magazine in 1976, that it is a "soft green place where rain rules and mist moderates the proceedings".

"There is a lot of rain in Ireland, and I have a line about it that I have developed. Number one, it is acid-free. Secondly, it is good for your complexion.

"And thirdly, it is anti-wrinkle in its effects," he said at a reception for the Irish-American community and businesses in Seattle.

The Taoiseach also quoted the Seattle poet and lyricist Tom Robbins from his 1984 work, 'Walking on the Edge': "The raindrops, on the other hand, behave as if they live here, which they do."

Mr Kenny's ode to rain wouldn't have gone down too well on home soil but the "anti-wrinkle rain" gag was a repeated feature of the Taoiseach's banter to folks from back home, which always went down a storm with the Irish-American community.

Mr Kenny felt at home on the Pacific north-west, as he related how his own relatives emigrated to the area.

"I met some relations of my own family that I have never seen or never met before. They are the grandchildren of the first people who came out and worked in Butte, Montana in the copper mines and spread throughout Montana down to Seattle, Oregon, different places. And you see the faces are the same, the accents are different but the connection is as strong as ever," he said.

Further south in San Francisco, Mr Kenny met more familiar faces when he bumped into a former pupil from his time as a teacher and a former gaelic football clubmate from Islandeady in Co Mayo.

The Taoiseach immediately recognised the name when told the general manager of the United Irish Cultural Centre was Teresa Moore from Mayo.

"I came out here about 27 years ago. He was a teacher back in a place outside Westport called Knockrooskey. He hasn't changed much," she said.

"He was a very good teacher. It was a mixed class, and there were only three classrooms. The parish was Aughagower, about five miles outside Westport. They are actually having a big reunion there this year.

"He taught us everything, English, Irish, maths.

"He was a pretty good teacher, we were all pretty happy to have him. It was sixth class and I was 12 years old. Half of my family is out here now."

Her brother, Tony, works as a builder in San Francisco, and recalls playing on the Islandeady minor gaelic football team, while Mr Kenny was a few years ahead of him on the senior team.

"He was a class act. A good, solid player in the back line. His brother Ciaran was also a fine player. He marked hard and was very tough. He was very motivated. Himself and his brother Ciaran were so committed. Back then he was the man to listen to, and today he's still the man to listen to. Amazing.

"It's a pleasure to know the man. He never gave up on anything. That was his thing. It is great to see him again," he said.

Rounding off the trip, Mr Kenny was satisfied with the outcome of his week-long trip to the United States, taking in six cities on the east and west coast.

"I think it's been an extraordinary week from engagement – from Breezy Point in New York through to Mayor Bloomberg's office, to the White House, Capitol Hill, immigration, US trade, updating on Ireland's economic performance – to quite serious involvement with Irish-American companies in San Jose, Orange County, Palo Alto, San Francisco and Seattle.

"It's very important to capture the spirit and the energy of the Irish-American community in these locations – but also in a serious way to be able to sell to interested US investors the talent and the quality pool available, in terms of a package for potential investors.

"It's probably unbeatable compared to most other countries," he said.

Irish Independent

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