Friday 24 May 2019

Brian takes cupla focal out of Obama's mouth as White House goes green

IN fairness, a fierce amount of talking had gone on all day. There were speeches galore from dawn to dusk when Barack met Brian.

And then, at the evening soiree in the White House, the leaders were obliged to deliver the same speeches twice in two party rooms; typical of an Irish hooley, the world and his missus had piled in for the event, all claiming to be a personal friend of the host.

The first set of speeches in the formal East Room went swimmingly, but Brian had his blond moment in a smaller room, at the start of the second set of remarks.

After being introduced by Barack, he took to the podium and launched into his spiel.

"It seems particularly fitting that we gather tonight in a house that was, after all, designed and built by an Irish architect," he said.

"We've had a wonderful day that began by meeting with a strong friend of the United States..."

He came to a stop. The words sounded familiar, but for all the wrong reasons.

Brian looked around sheepishly to where President Obama was seated.

"That's your speech!" he blurted, clearly morto as he realised that he was reading from the wrong script on the autocue.

Barack was in stitches.

The crowded roomful of members of Congress and Irish-American shakers and movers also cracked up.

As laughter erupted from all directions, Brian gamely took it on the chin.

He turned to his host and looked at him sternly. "Who said these were idiot-proof?" he deadpanned.

St Patrick's Day ended as it had begun, with a remarkably relaxed US president and Irish Taoiseach having a bit of craic.

Humourous incidents aside, much thought went into preparations for the big event at the White House -- where green-tinted lighting complemented beautiful arrangements of green flowers and white roses, as trays of green sparkling wine chased mini-nibbles of corned beef and cabbage, Irish scones, ham, and potato cakes with smoked salmon.

On the podium, a glowing Michelle Obama looked stunning in a dark emerald fitted sleeveless dress.

Proud Irish son and vice-president Joe Biden, who was master of ceremonies, paid tribute to the Irish-American values of his mother, Catherine Finnegan.

"It's an ethic of toughness and compassion, intellect and humour, deep honour and a deeper commitment to those around us. And that's the definition of my working with President Barack Obama. That's who he is.

"Come to think of it, maybe he should put, as was said today, an asterisk after the 'O' in his name," he wisecracked to laughter.

Barack Obama -- to a room that was becoming more convivial with every glass of viridian wine consumed -- even mentioned his Offaly roots, ad-libbing to cheers, "I understand that I have been invited to a pub there to enjoy a pint there . . . so we're going to take them up on that offer at some point.

"You know, Guinness tastes very different in Ireland. It is much better. You guys are keeping the good stuff for yourself," he looked accusingly at the Taoiseach. "It could start a trade dispute," he mused.

Brian got a bit lyrical himself, hailing "some 40 million bridges cross along one of the world's greatest oceans".

"Forty million bridges traverse a history that will take us also into the future. Bridges on which investment travels, creating jobs here and in Ireland, bridges on which ideas travel, thriving on partnership and exchange. Bridges of dreams and of purpose, built by those who came before us, and it is up to us to maintain," he said.

Then he went into the other room and promptly read the wrong script. But he didn't even get the last laugh.

Rising to take his leave at the end of Brian's speech, Barack quipped: "I'd like to thank President Obama for the invitation here".

It was clear that the two men had something else in common -- sheer relief that an Irish saint gave them day-long shelter from the raging economic storm battering both their shores.

We can use our irishness: Martina Devlin, page 37

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