Pulitzer Prize winning writer Maureen Dowd was given a civic reception in County Mayo last night and stated it would have been one of the proudest days in the lives of her Irish-born father and Irish American mother.
She recounted how her father, Michael Dowd from Clare, almost sailed on the Titanic but canceled because of his mother’s tears. He later became a decorated policeman in Washington D.C. and national president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Her mother, Peggy, was a child of Irish emigrants from Ballinrobe, County Mayo, who often told Maureen and her sister Peggy who was also present that they “had the rocks of Clare in their heads” when telling them off.
Dowd is receiving an honorary degree in University College Galway this week and was in her usual witty form.
A political cocktail of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera was served up by Dowd in Castlebar — with a little bit of George Bush Senior thrown in for good measure.
The celebratedNew York Times columnist enthralled the audience at Mayo’s Museum of Country Life.
Sharing the stage with IrishCentral founder Niall O’Dowd, who interviewed her, the acclaimed journalist spoke of her Irish heritage and her love for American politics.
Speaking just days before she receives an honorary degree from Galway University, Dowd described former US President Bill Clinton as ‘like a warm bath,' making donors and Democrats feel deeply loved and appreciated.
The Irish Times reports that she likened Barack Obama to a ‘cold shower,' unable to connect on the same level as Clinton.
She described George Bush Senior as one of the last gentlemen and a man she has come to respect greatly since he left office.
She branded current presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and failed candidate Al Gore as ‘so wooden that they are like guys made in a factory’.
Dowd also predicted that Hillary Clinton could still run for the White House next time round.
With Clare and Mayo roots, Dowd spoke of her mother’s love for Michael Collins and her father’s support for De Valera.
She also revealed that she had learned later in life that she had been conceived at an Ancient Order of Hibernians convention after a row between her parents over the attentions of another man.
To laughter, she admitted: “So I was conceived in jealousy and rage ... which explains everything.”
Speaking on the current situation in American politics, Dowd told her audience: “President Obama’s inability to use his skill as a storyteller, so skilfully applied in his memoir, is a key factor in his drop in support.
“He’s a bit like Luke Skywalker with the force — he’s got it but he doesn’t seem to know how to use it.
“He was supposed to be the Democratic Reagan, but instead of learning to surf the magic, he has put it to one side.
“As a consequence, Obama is now engaged in trying to win back the support of so many groups, from gays, Muslims, Hispanics to Catholics and women who had been so besotted by him and have become disenchanted.”
Looking ahead to the US Presidential election, Dowd predicted: “It will be close even though the campaigns does not have the excitement of 2008.”
The Irish Times reports that Dowd told her captivated audience that the two happiest moments enjoyed by presidents which she had witnessed were Bill Clinton in Belfast with Van Morrison, and Obama in Moneygall, Co Offaly last year.
“Both Clinton and Obama enjoyed the unadulterated love they got from the Irish because of the absence of fathers in their lives,” she said.
She also spoke of the ‘amazing attack’ on the Vatican by Enda Kenny and her abhorrence of the Catholic Church’s reaction to child sexual abuse. She had been ‘very impressed’ by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who had ‘started crying’ when she was interviewing him, according to the Times report.
Dowd paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II of Britain for ‘overcoming’ the death of her relative Lord Mountbatten to meet Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.