Inspired by St. Patrick's Day, politicians lay on the blarney
By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent | March 15. 2013 10:23PM
Irish wit was flowing during the 22nd Annual Wild Irish Breakfast, sponsored in part by the New Hampshire Union Leader. Participants dished out the annual dose of blarney, and attendees listened to bad jokes, Irish blessings and some serious tributes to The PLUS Co., a local organization dedicated to helping adults with developmental disabilities.
Gov. Maggie Hassan was the target of some good-natured ridicule during the event, and she wasn't shy about taking a few shots of her own at former elected officials. While she supports bringing rail transportation back to New Hampshire, Hassan wisecracked that the Nashua community is especially invested in the initiative because it wants to give former Mayor Bernie Streeter a one-way ticket back to Concord. Hassan continued with the zingers, saying she was quite uncomfortable after taking over former Gov. John Lynch's office - that is, until she was able to remove his booster seat.
The governor also made light of her proposed budget, apologizing for the slow process: She said her mistake was to use the same accountant as Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party.
According to Sen. Peggy Gilmour, the worst part of being re-elected is the pathetic attempts at humor each year at the Wild Irish Breakfast. Gilmour brought props to the table for her speech on Friday, handing over a large, fluffy pair of dice to Hassan to hang on the rearview mirror of her "governor-mobile."
"We are actually betting on the governor that she is going to pull it off," Gilmour said, referring to Hassan's proposal to include $80 million in gambling licensing fees in the state budget.
Sister Paula Marie Buley, president of Rivier University, also had a moment in the spotlight, and it wasn't to give the blessing before the meal. Gilmour encouraged the audience to follow Sister Buley on Twitter, remarking that the sister's account name is "Nuns of Steel."
Another panelist, Boston Bruins legend Bob Sweeney, was called out for cursing publicly in the presence of a nun - not once, but twice.
Although Mayor Donnalee Lozeau also engaged in some roasting, she was relatively generous and kind in her remarks, even handing out symbolic gifts to her fellow speakers. The mayor gave Hassan a paper pot of gold, telling the crowd, "Let us all wish her the luck of the Irish today, as a pot of gold is nearly impossible to reach."
On a more serious note, Lozeau commended the clients of The PLUS Co., who are working hard to become more independent individuals who are making significant contributions to the community. She mentioned two clients who are serving as interns at City Hall, working in the mayor's office and the community development office.
The roasting was all for a worthy cause to raise money for an organization that empowers people like Jeff Shilke, who shared his personal success story with the audience. Shilke, grew up in Merrimack and eventually enrolled in The PLUS Co.'s INCOME Program after holding various jobs at Target and Papa Ginos. Following completion of the program, Shilke now works at The PLUS Co. as a receptionist and office assistant.
"At The PLUS Company, we think of the possibilities. We think of the impossibilities," said Bob Purcell, chairman of the board of directors, emphasizing that miracles really can happen.
The Wild Irish Breakfast, although quirky in nature, is a serious fundraiser for the PLUS Co., an acronym for People Learning Useful Skills. The event raises thousands of dollars to support programs that assist individuals with disabilities, and help them develop lifelong skills and promote independence.