Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bertie Ahern's Farewell Tour

The government jet has landed in Washington DC, and Bertie Ahern has begun his farewell tour. In a matter of days, he won't be An Taoiseach any more.

He won't be travelling alone. Loyal supporter Des Richardson has come along, the very man who organized the personal fundraising that's become a major topic of discussion at the Mahon Tribunal. Then there's David McKenna, another friend who contributed to the "dig-out" that's been so finely sliced and diced at the hearings that Mr. Ahern decided it was time to step down from office.

Everybody loves the Irish, even if they've been investigated for peculiar financial dealings while serving as Minister of Finance. Ignoring the Mahon Tribunal evidence and considering the millions of Americans with Irish heritage, Congress has invited Mr. Ahern to address them.

It isn't often that foreign politicians are allowed to stand at the front of the room and deliver a speech, but Irish leaders have been up there five times before, including Charles Stewart Parnell and Dev himself. It's the brogue, of course, so charming, so easy on the ears.

The speech to the joint session of Congress will be followed by a meeting with President Bush, where Mr. Ahern plans to bring up the problem of the illegal Irish immigrants who aren't the least bit like all those Mexicans and can't they have their own special dispensation so they can go home for a funeral and still get back in to the States.

From the White House, the tour will continue to a luncheon with the Friends of Ireland, where Mr. Ahern will present General Francis Meagher's sword. It's only good manners, to give the US a sword from the very man who founded the Fighting 69th in New York during the Civil War. President Kennedy gave Ireland the Fighting 69th's battle flag when he was calling on his ancestral land, and the people of Waterford would like to reciprocate.

In an event-packed day, Bertie Ahern will be tipping pints of Bass Ale with the Irish Ambassador at an evening reception, and then it's on to Boston to give a talk at the JFK School of Government at Harvard.

No word on what he'll say to the students of Harvard, but chances are, he won't be delivering a lecture on how to acquire funds from friends without making it look like you're accepting bribes.

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