Wealth of native talent on show left all in attendance green with pride

NOT quite London’s Palladium, but Dublin’s brand new National Convention Centre came pretty close last night as it hosted an Irish-style Royal Variety Performance to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ireland.

The eye-catching building on the banks of the Liffey played host to its first royal guest in what constituted a farewell show for the British monarch on the final evening of her state visit.

The Queen may not have rattled her jewellery as once daringly suggested by John Lennon but she probably found it impossible not to have allowed an occasional tap of the royal foot with the musical fare on offer.

The event, which culminated in a standing ovation for the 85-year-old guest when she appeared on stage to meet the performers, represented another triumph on her, ahem… all-conquering tour of Ireland.

The gala fashion show and concert was specially commissioned by the British Embassy in Dublin to showcase the best of Irish and British design as well as highlight the local love of art and music.

Featuring a wealth of native talent including Westlife, the Chieftains, X-Factor finalist Mary Byrne and another spine-tingling performance of Riverdance, it left all in the 2,000 strong audience green with pride, rather than envy.

Practically the entire Cabinet showed up together with a large proportion of the Dáil and Seanad in tow as well as former politicians including Bertie Ahern and Albert Reynolds.

The guest list was drawn from across the Irish sporting, business and entertainment worlds and then some.

Among those attending were former Irish soccer manager Jack Charlton; Louis Walsh; Cardinal Sean Brady; supermodel Erin O’Connor; businessman Denis O’Brien; former Formula 1 boss Eddie Jordan; and Gate Theatre director Michael Colgan.

Others included Lord Henry Mountcharles; Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan; celebrity cook Rachel Allen; former Irish rugby star Keith Wood.

After the Queen arrived in the foyer dressed in an elegant, teal lace coat trimmed with satin edging by designer Angela Kelly, she stood patiently in line chatting with the British ambassador, Julian King and Taoiseach Enda Kenny to await the arrival of another VIP.

It was kind of easy to forget that the President Mary McAleese was technically the principal guest of the evening.

The proceedings kicked off in a separate auditorium from the main theatre with the Irish Tatler British Irish Designer Showcase created by Dragon’s Den entrepreneur and publisher Norah Casey.

It featured clothes from 20 top Irish and English designers including John Rocha; Ben de Lisi; Deborah Veale; Vivienne Westwood; Louise Kennedy, Paul Costelloe; and Victoria Beckham.

The royal party then moved to the main auditorium where compere Gay Byrne greeted the special visitors.

“It is a celebration that would have been beyond the wildest imaginings of your parents and mine,” Gaybo told his audience, perfectly capturing the mood of the evening and indeed the Queen’s wider visit.

Among the musical acts were a combined north-south choir consisting of the Methodist Choir, Belfast, and the Presentation Choir from Ballyphehane in Cork who performed a version of “Danny Boy”.

Mary Byrne wisely elected not to perform her signature tune — It’s a Man’s World given the two female heads of state in the audience. Instead, she gave a powerful rendition of U2’s All I Want is You.

However, the star-turn of the evening was the final act when the cast of Riverdance showed that the dance created as a Eurovision interval act has lost none of its emotional impact with the passing years.

The audience then gave a spontaneous standing ovation and applause to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip as they arrived on stage to greet the musicians and performers.

Reacting with delight, presidential candidate David Norris proudly declared he was “on a high”.

“This will go out all over the world, the fact that the Queen of England was given a standing ovation from 2,000 Irish people. It is absolutely extraordinary. It is a genuine historic event.”

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