It was Bertie’s day in the sun. Behold the Taoiseach, applauded by priests and poets, by businessmen and actors, by princesses and prime ministers. Up there in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster, it was Bertie’s finest hour.
His predecessors as guests of honour in the holiest of parliamentary holies included Boris Yeltsin, Bill Clinton and Francois Mitterand. On Wednesday, the list of political dignitaries in attendance embraced John Major, Gordon Brown, Neil Kinnock, Peter Brooke, General John de Chastelaine, Senator Maurice Hayes. All had been players in the peace effort. They came to honour Bertie.
Sportsmen Eddie Jordan and Keith Wood arrived to bow the knee to Bertie. Ireland’s business elite in the UK greeted Bertie. BA chief Willie Walsh was there; investment banker Hugo McNeill was invited; so was designer Paul Costelloe. The Great and the Good of the Irish in England rubbed shoulders.
Suddenly, along the Royal Gallery strode the slimmeddown figure of Sean Dunne (or Lord Ballsbridge’ as he is sometimes known). One of the invited guests told me that he gasped at the sight of Sean.