Mr Keough said that he would keep his comments brief because he knew that Mr. Tuggle had to leave momentarily for a meeting with Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda. Making it clear where his allegiances lie, especially at a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, he looked at Mr. Tuggle and said, “Why, I didn’t even know that he was Irish.”
Mr. Gilmore credited Mr. Keough with playing an instrumental role of expanding Coke’s presence in Ireland. The company first introduced Coke into the republic in 1952 and along with its bottling partner Coca-Cola Hellenic employs 1,900 people at 10 facilities.
In response to Mr. Gilmore’s remarks, he praised the current government’s efforts to get the country back on track after experiencing a painful economic downturn.
Saying that he had worked with six or seven Irish governments, he considered the current one exceptional for dealing with the problems that the country faces “with sheer honesty,” working on a “day by day basis” to solve its problems.
“I wish to God our government in this country had the same courage,” he added to yet another round of applause.
He also thanked Michael Collins, Ireland’s current ambassador in Washington, and Paul Gleeson, the consul general based in Atlanta, for their service.
Mr. Keough was instrumental in lobbying for the opening of a consulate general in Atlanta in 2010, the first opened by Ireland in the U.S. since the 1930s.
Mr. Collins, he said, would be leaving Washington for Berlin soon and he wished him good luck working with Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor. “I can say that because I’m not a diplomat,” he added.
Once Mr. Keough was seated, James Flannery, the director of the W. B. Yeats Foundation at Emory University and a professor of arts and humanities, made his way to the podium to announce the winners of the annual essay contest on "What St. Patrick's Day Means to Me."
As he navigated his way between the chairs and tables, he said that he had used the ancient Irish word ‘favol,’ meaning prince-like when he nominated Mr Keough for an honorary doctorate at Emory.
Mr Keough’s comments reminded him of the word once again, he said softly, “Simply, the greatest man I have ever known.”
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