Bill Clinton came to a little village in East Cork last night and the locals loved it.
It was early evening when the tiny village of Shanagarry gathered to witness the arrival of the 42nd president.
Sleepy hamlets in East Cork do not get many days like this.
Clinton was guest speaker at the Worldwide Ireland Fund dinner attended by over 200 delegates from 12 countries.
It was held at Ballymaloe House, the epicenter of the slow food revolution in Ireland where the Darina Allen family has established a worldwide reputation for fine cuisine.
The little meeting center where the event was held was more used I’m sure, to local parish functions and the occasional wedding.
Alongside the president was Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny making it a spectacular night for the East Cork speck on the map.
Throw in Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney who accepted a lifetime achievement award and dance legend Michael Flatley and you have a perfect alignment of stars.
The buzz all day at the Ireland Fund event was the decision by Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness to meet with Queen Elizabeth in Belfast next week.
Bill Clinton called it a “terrific” moment in his speech and there is no question that we may witness the last great historic moment of the Irish peace process next week.
As Ireland Funds CE0 Kieran McLaughlin noted, the process that has become so mundane would never have happened without Clinton’s intervention.
As he is wont to, Clinton’ s remarks weaved across many tapestries, his time in office, the upcoming election, but mostly the Irish economy and how to get out of the mess they are in.
“Creative cooperation” is Clinton’s buzzword these days and he points to the US states that are doing best as examples of it, where opposing parties get together for the good of the state.
Unspoken was the reality that there is no creative cooperation in Europe at the present over the Euro which has led to the mess to begin with.
Come to think of it it was exactly creative cooperation which got Queen Elizabeth and Martin McGuiness to agree to meet next week. As Clinton noted, Elizabeth is long enough on the throne to make her own decisions and obviously she wants it as part of her legacy.
Enda Kenny was also in rare form. Clinton gets every politician alive to up their game, though as Kenny remarked appearing after Clinton and before a
Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, is a tough business indeed.
Heaney was introduced by Ireland Fund chairman Loretta Brennan Glucksman who recited a wonderful poem Heaney had written for her after her husband’s passing.
Heaney got the largest ovation of the day and deservedly so. He is one of Ireland’s greatest national treasures, one of a handful who bestrides the world with no equal.
Once he wrote “no glass of mine was ever raised to toast a British queen.”
I’d bet he, like so many Irish these days, would say that is in the past now.
And indeed it is. As he flew out from Ireland last night, Bill Clinton knows that his work on Ireland is the gift that keeps on giving, as peace continues to break out and a former top IRA commander meets a British queen.
As a Shanagarry local has likely never said “Who wudda thunk it”?
Little known tale of generous Turkish aid to the Irish during the Great Hunger