Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Clipping the President's wings.

Seán T. O’Ceallaigh, President of Ireland 1945 – 1959

On Ryan Tubridy’s radio programme yesterday, former FG Minister Gemma Hussey suggested that one cost-saving measure the Government might consider would be a reduction in the number of state visits made by our current President Mary McAleese.

On her frequent travels abroad, the president is invariably accompanied by her husband, a number of aides and, frequently, a senior government minister. It’s quite a little circus and an expensive one, too.

Gemma’s suggestion reminded me of a story told by my aunt who was an Aer Lingus hostess in the early/mid 1950’s. President O’Ceallaigh was going to some meeting in Paris and my aunt was chosen for that flight because she would be able to greet him “as gaeilge”.

So she duly welcomed him on board, showed him to his seat and took his hat and coat to hang up.

Carrying the coat, she was surprised to feel something hard and bulky in it. When she was behind the curtain hanging up the coat, out of curiosity, she took a peek in the pocket and was surprised to find a large packet of tea. So even back then the tea in France was obviously rubbish.

But what a contrast between our then president carrying his own tea and the present “royal family” type entourage we routinely send out. We mightn’t want to go quite that far, but a little less of the regal hauteur and the travelling court wouldn’t go amiss.

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