By Anne Geaghan
Television and Radio presenter Dermot O’Leary, the London-Irish son of Wexford parents, was one of the guests of honour at last weekend’s Wexford Association dinner in Cricklewood.
It was the Association’s 63rd annual dinner dance and organisers described it as one of the most successful in the more than half a century of such events.
The Clayton Crown Hotel was resplendent in purple and gold as the Chairman Tommy Harrell welcomed Ireland’s Defence Minister, Wexford TD Paul Kehoe and Dermot O’Leary.
A “chain gang” of Wexford dignitaries travelled from the home county for the occasion to mingle with guests throughout the evening That home team included Cllr Paddy Kavanagh, Chairman Wexford County Council, and from town councils came Cllr Oliver Walsh of Enniscorthy, Cllr Pip Green of Gorey and Cllr Willie Fitzharris of New Ross District Council.
They joined the Mayor of Wexford Frank Staples and his wife Trish and Wexford County Council’s director of services John Carley.
Tommy Harrell thanked everyone for their support and paid tribute to the people of Wexford in London and others who have made the association the strong organisation it is today. He paid special acknowledgement to sponsors Justin Ffrench Ltd and Ground Construction and all those who donated raffle prizes as well as the hotel staff and management.
Michael Sills, a driving force behind the association for many years, proposed the toast to Ireland and his words were greeted with huge affection. He thanked the Councillors for their generous donation to the Association’s Welfare fund.
Responding to the toast, Minister Paul Kehoe expressed his appreciation for the Association’s thoughtfulness for their families back home – in good times and in his own personal experience of loss when’s father died. Mr Kehoe stressed the importance of and his commitment to preserving the good relationship between Ireland and UK after Brexit.
The Minister thanked Dermot O’Leary for his good natured presence and described how much it means back home in Ireland when Wexford’s famous son appears on TV and Radio.
Dermot O’Leary said he was touched by the tributes and overwhelmed by the warmth off his welcome. He affirmed his pride in not just his Wexford roots but his trips to the GAA grounds in New Eltham in the 1980s with his father Seanie and mother Marie. Both of his parents were keen supporters of London GAA.
The memorable entertainment for the evening was by Seamus Kiely, brother of late John “Wexford Latchico” who did a lovely rendition of “Wexford Homeland”, the enchanting O’Connor-Heneghan dancers, and Barry Owen who sang Boolavogue.
• See next week’s paper for more photographs