Sunday 25 March 2018

Enda wears heart on his sleeve at top of the world

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his wife Fionnuala sign a steel girder at the top of the new World Trade Centre
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his wife Fionnuala sign a steel girder at the top of the new World Trade Centre
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and wife Fionnuala at the top of the Freedom Tower on former World Trade Centre site in New York
The steel girder signed by the Enda and Fionnuala Kenny

Fionnan Sheahan New York

Standing 1776 feet above New York City, Taoiseach Enda Kenny decided to add a finishing touch to a special autograph.

At New York's highest point, Mr Kenny was invited to sign a steel girder on the ceiling of the Freedom Tower, the new building replacing the Twin Towers destroyed on 9/11.

Not just any old leader reaches these heights.

Mr Kenny will be the only political leader invited up into the open air, 105 floors above the Big Apple, in what is effectively an active building site before it opens in spring next year.

But the Taoiseach's access was facilitated by the project managers being Irish-American.

The height of the building, at 1776 feet, is symbolic of the United States Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July, 1776.

On the ceiling, Mr Kenny was asked to sign a steel girder. He signed it, adding the date, and his wife, Fionnuala, added her name too.

Standing back to admire their work, Mr Kenny added a romantic touch, drawing a love heart between the two names.

Below the heady heights of the Freedom Tower, Mr Kenny also visited the memorials to the victims of 9/11, as well as the nearby Irish famine memorial.

Mr Kenny was right down at sea level earlier in the day meeting with the Irish-American community in Breezy Point on Long Island, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Surveying the damage, Mr Kenny saw first hand where 101 houses were burned to the ground by fire as sea level rose up to four feet in resident's homes.

"This is a demonstration here of the evidence of a very strong community spirit," Mr Kenny said.

Not all families are back in their homes.

Valerie Gilson, whose grandparents came from Corbally, Co Limerick, said her house would have to be knocked after being shunted from its foundations. The Irish flag was among the few items not destroyed and now hangs on the porch. "We've always hanging together. We've always helped each other out," she said.

Donna Ward, a third generation Irish-American with grandparents from Donegal, is still repairing her home after being out for four weeks. "There's an old saying: 'Once you get sand in your shoes, you can never leave the beach'," she said.

"I had two feet of sand in the ground floor of my house."

GAA players Donal Og Cusack, Ollie Canning and Lar Corbett previously travelled to Breezy Point to work on the parish hall.

Irish Independent

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