There was an afterglow all around the Merrion Hotel in Dublin when I dropped in for a cup of coffee yesterday. The most powerful man in the Western world President Barack Obama and his statuesque wife Michelle had some hours earlier incensed the air of Dublin’s most prestigious and unique hotel with their presence. At noon they had checked in to stay there and were ensconced in The Lord Antrim Suite in the afternoon when mother nature blew its ash from Iceland and spoiled the party. Hours later Mr Obama and his wife were airborne aboard Airforce One on their way to London.
A president of the United States rarely gets ‘down time’ on foreign trips but the schedule according to Merrion Hotel General Manager Peter Mac Cann made provision for Michelle and Barack Obama to be free from half eight onwards to have a drink in the bar with members of The White House staff.
‘Mobile White House’ had been literally recreated in a bank of rooms upstairs beneath the Presidential couple’s suite. Numerous rooms had been cleared of all items of furniture as White House staff went to work. Planning for the president’s stay started within days of a March 17 announcement that President Obama was coming to Ireland to visit his ancestral village of Moneygall in Co. Offaly. Mr Mac Cann, his sales manager Garrett Power and his staff worked tirelessly for three months on every detail of the US visit dotting their i’s and and crossing their t’s. Peter Mac Cann confirmed the hotel went into ‘shutdown’ mode to the public from Sunday at 3pm. Pre- booked residents, around 70 in numbers, had to be relocated at other hotels in the Capital. The presence of the ‘ man/men’ with ‘the button’ and the ‘black box’ or ‘nuclear football’ must have been a source of not inconsiderable curiosity to members of staff. The President goes nowhere without access to ‘the button.’
A specially erected canopy was put in place to shield the Obamas once they stepped from their limo on their way into the Merrion Hotel. Martin Naughton and his wife Carmel who are part of the consortium which own the hotel met with the President and his wife once they stepped into the front hall. This was followed by an introduction to Peter Mac Cann and his wife Dorothy. “What sort of a guy was he?” I asked Peter. ” I found him gracious in the extreme. He was practising his Irish “ta athas orm ( I am glad ) at front desk with the staff.” The Front of House Manager Bernie O’ Meara is from Offaly and once Mr O’Bama found this out when he returned to the desk he referred to her as ” cous” (reference to family from Moneygall in Offaly).
Mr Obama’s presence clearly sparked a lot of excitement among the Merrion Hotel staff escpecially, when he insisted on a photo with the Hotel workers.
When he was informed mid afternoon that a decision had been taken not to ‘overnight’ because of the threat of the ‘ash’ delaying take-off yesterday morning Mr Mac Cann said “he came down and thanked everybody and he added ‘come on you guys let’s have a photograph.'” Earlier in The Lord Antrim Suite’ suite Mr Obama was photographed on the phone speaking to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon discussing the tornado that struck Joplin on Sunday.
As President Obama and his wife Michelle exited from the Merrion Hotel he told Peter Mac Cann “make sure you tell everybody I stayed with you.” That was the day the President of the United Sates visited the Merrion Hotel.
Incensed, Eamonn? Did they anger the staff or waft perfume over them from a thurible?