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Enda hits high notes with Hozier, has a go at Hulk but can't win on immigration reform


Enda Kenny (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Enda Kenny (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)


Enda Kenny (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

'Like Winston Churchill, you inspire me," declared 11-year-old Jack Caffrey as he pulled gently at the coat tail of the Taoiseach's dark blue suit. Enda gazed into the child's eyes and, for several seconds, struggled to conjure up a response. He was speechless; moved by the sheer power of the compliment which was delivered so confidently by the young Atlanta boy dressed in green.

It was at that moment, in the auditorium of the city's town hall, that Enda showed a side of himself that sometimes we forget exists. As he placed his hand on Jack's left shoulder, Enda spoke to his young admirer in the affectionate manner a father would speak to his son.

It also disarmed Enda, stripping him of the serious persona that has previously fuelled claims he suffers from a lack of charisma. There is the prospect that this St Patrick's Day visit, which took in the cities of Atlanta, Austin and Washington DC, will be the last in the lifetime of the Dáil's longest-serving TD.

There was no guessing as to why the Taoiseach embarks on the same visit each March: Complete and unrestricted access to the corridors of power. Enda's master key to the US brought him inside Dell and Coca-Cola, the Oval Office and Capitol Buildings, and even the dressing room of a familiar face from home.

As a politician who has become known for keeping the media waiting, Enda was given a dose of his own medicine by Andrew 'Hozier' Byrne. As the Wicklow music sensation prepared for the night's performance, Enda shuffled around awkwardly inside his dressing room, as his officials struggled over a game of table tennis. Hozier quickly arrived to meet his waiting guest. The Taoiseach quipped that he was meeting "the most famous man in Ireland" and announced that 'Take Me To Church' is his favourite Hozier track.

The song brought thousands of Hozier fans to their feet at a sold-out concert in Atlanta later that night. An appropriate response by Enda, considering he is the man overseeing the Marriage Equality vote in May.

Enda's chance encounters with his admirers continued as he prepared to embark on a flight to Austin, Texas.

Hulk Hogan, muscles and veins bulging, shared a few words with his new Irish buddy in the airport lounge. "I'll take you," Enda apparently said to his slightly taller and more athletic counterpart. We're told he was joking.

Both Hulk and Enda went separate ways as they arrived in the music capital of the world.

Clearly getting a bit carried away after hanging out with Hulk and Hozier, Enda told a predominantly young audience to "keep it weird".

But during a questions and answers session, Enda provided an insight into the importance of his visit. "Come back home," he said passionately to the dozens of Irish emigrants in the room.

One or two became emotional.

Clearly, it has been a thought on their minds each and every day since they left home due to the recession. This was the message Enda was determined would be heard on the St Patrick's Day visit.

But after five days of highs, here emerged a Taoiseach, through his own admission, feeling somewhat disappointed.

In almost every single speech and media interview throughout his US journey, the Mayo politician asked for one thing in return: Some degree of immigration reform, some new deal for the tens of thousands of undocumented Irish.

It wasn't to be, for now at least.

President Obama was the bearer of the bad news, explaining that an ongoing legal case has stalled his attempts to introduce reform.

Enda explained during an address to the 'who's who' of US politics on Capitol Hill that he wants to bring the undocumented out of the shadows of "the red, white and blue of the Star-Spangled Banner". Perhaps pictured in his mind was young Jack Caffrey, whose Irish ancestors took that all too familiar boat journey across the Irish Sea, heading to experience the American Dream.

Irish Independent