- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2000

''Come to the fleadt."
Irish President Mary McAleese's invitation to a "jam party" wasn't lost on the high-powered crowd dining before the Kennedy Center's gala celebration of Irish and Irish-American music and dance Saturday night.
Though many understood the expression, fluency in Gaelic was hardly required to enjoy phenomenal fiddler Nollaig Casey, singers Mary Black and Davy Hammond and the troupe of Irish musicians who appeared alongside Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Ricky Skaggs and the Riverdance company in a show that raised the roof of the Opera House to new heights.
And lowered its floor as well, at least in the vicinity of third row, center, where Jayne Ikard (maiden name Brumley, definitely Irish) reported a "frenzy of tapping toes" during the Riverdance cast's thunderous, show-stopping number.
As might be expected, Irish-American pols were out in force (in primo orchestra and box tier seats), including Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, Rep. David R. Obey and Rep. Edward J. Markey (helpfully pointing that "all the names end in 'y' that's the key").
There were Kennedys too, of course, including Massachusetts' Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and his niece Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who came to honor Jean Kennedy Smith, the clan's indomitable sister, mother and aunt. Without her generous financial contribution and Kennedy Center ties, the long-dreamed-of project, "Island: Arts From Ireland," focusing on theater, music, film, literature and art from the Emerald Isle, would have never occurred.
Mrs. Smith's clout in Ireland (where she served as ambassador from 1993 to 1998) helped get things moving as well. "Her involvement was a guarantee of success," said Irish Ambassador Sean O'Huiginn, who said his government provided $1 million in underwriting to the cause.
The presence of Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and top officials from both Ireland and Northern Ireland (the latter represented by George Howarth, Great Britain's Minister for Political Development) put a special glow on the night, with many guests expressing high hopes for the ultimate success of the long peace process.
"There is going to be peace. Of that I am sure," said Mrs. Smith, looking soignee in a quilted satin jacket and floor-length lace skirt as she greeted her sister and brother-in-law, Eunice and Sargent Shriver, and her sons, Stephen and William Kennedy Smith, before the smoked salmon and filet of beef dinner enjoyed by such other VIP guests as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (not Irish, but husband John's family hails from County Kerry), George and Liz Stevens, event sponsor Frank Saul, actor-comedians Adolph Green and Betty Comden, and "Angela's Ashes" author Frank McCourt.
In thanking Mrs. Smith for her "exceptional interest in and affection for Ireland," Mrs. McAleese did not fail to eloquently recall the poignancy of the event taking place at the Kennedy Center, "a living memorial to a man who personally symbolized the depth, warmth and energy of the relationship between Ireland and America.
"Here we are 40 years later, his sisters, brother, family and colleagues continuing to build, expand and to sustain the great love affair between our two countries."

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