With cherry blossoms on his mind, Mr Kenny goes to Washington

The large Secret Service agent at the back of the Oval Office glared at me and I quickly scooped my notebook off Barack Obama’s desk.

It was an honest mistake and his face thawed into a smile. That’s the press for you, constantly stepping on toes and crashing into furniture.

It’s stressful being herded around Washington DC from one building to the next. The muggy air is a dizzying mix of intense security and cherry blossoms.

As our cavalcade took us to the White House along Embassy Row, tourists watched us curiously and locals ignored us contemptuously. Another day, another visiting dignitary holds up the traffic.

When you turn onto Massa-chusetts Avenue, you see the Irish embassy at the corner, not far from a statue of Robert Emmet. Across the street is the Greek embassy, right where we can keep an eye on them. You’re welcome, European Union.

You’re never far from cherry blossoms in DC and although yesterday was the first day of spring, their distinctive leaves and smell had bloomed earlier than usual in an unseasonably warm March.

These iconic trees have been in DC for exactly a century now, a gift from Tokyo in 1912. So it’s hard to blame the Taoiseach for incorporating cherry blossoms into his speech earlier in the day, over breakfast at vice-president Joe Biden’s official residence, the Naval Observatory.

Quite why he chose such a bizarre historical anecdote is a mystery, however.

President Franklin D Roosevelt was at logger-heads with a few proto-tree-hugging women in the 1930s who had threatened to chain themselves to a collection of cherry blossoms that had been earmarked to make way for a monument.

FDR won the day, retorting that he had no problem uprooting the tree, women and all, and he blasted the newspapers for the “flimflam”. The so-called “Cherry Tree Rebellion” was crushed without violence.

In the spirit of rebellion, Enda Kenny delved further back into history, presenting Mr Biden with a facsimile of a letter written by Wolfe Tone from France back to Ireland in 1796 during a visit to drum up support for the United Irishmen. It was meant as a good luck charm for the upcoming election and the always jovial VP accepted the gift graciously.

Nobody had the heart to tell him Tone was dead within two years.

Mr Kenny handed out more paperwork as the day went on. Along with the traditional bowl of shamrock, Mr Obama, the US president, received his certificate of Irish heritage at the White House late last night. Added to the ranks of honorary Irish along with the president were congressmen Peter King and Richard Neal, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, author Alice McDermott, and assistant secretary of state Kerri-Ann Jones.

When Washington DC returns the favour with a few cherry blossoms, we’ll call it even.


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