By Ray O’Hanlon
Remember the Fifth of November? It was the date that fans of Fianna Fáil in the New York area were asked to keep free for a big event.
But it appears that the tuxedos and party dresses will be staying on the hangers this week.
A "Gala Dinner" featuring Taoiseach Bertie Ahern as top guest has fallen by the wayside, like so many autumn leaves.
Back in July, the Friends of Fianna Fáil Inc. mailed hundreds of people in the tri-state area asking them to keep Nov. 5 open for the dinner and Ahern’s expected visit to the Big Apple.
The notice was sent out on postcards with "save the date" in large type on the front.
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Many did save it. But with the big night rapidly approaching, some were left wondering whether Thursday night would be spent with Bertie — or Leno or Letterman.
Well, it’s going to be the latter two, but, meanwhile, it seems that not everybody received a follow-up note from FOFF informing them that the big plans for Thursday were no more.
One Echo reader said this week that he had received the first notice but no subsequent invitation. He was ready and willing to dine for Fianna Fáil on Thursday night but was wondering where to go.
Another said he was unaware of a cancellation notice but still had his "save the date" postcard.
Anne Tarrant, FOFF’s U.S. Administrative Director, said that cancellation notices had been sent out to those who had received the first notices. The second mailing was a sealed envelope, not a postcard, she told the Echo.
She expressed puzzlement and concern over the fact that some on FOFF’s mailing list might not have received the postponement notice.
Tarrant said that after the first notice had been mailed, Friends of Fianna Fáil had not been able to secure a guarantee that Ahern could make it to New York in early November.
Tarrant said that the taoiseach — who, as it turns out, has been battling to keep the Good Friday accord timetable intact this week — would have to be out of Ireland for at least three days in order to attend the planned dinner, which, in previous years, has taken place in top Manhattan hotels such as the Waldorf and Pierre.
Tarrant said that Friends of Fianna Fáil is now planning to hold the fund-raiser at some point in the spring, assuming that Ahern can attend.
She said that the gala fund-raiser really required the presence of the taoiseach in order to maximize its success.