McAleese praise as youngsters stamp their art class

President Mary McAleese unveiled four new postage stamps today which celebrated the vibrancy of young Irish artistic talent.

President Mary McAleese unveiled four new postage stamps today which celebrated the vibrancy of young Irish artistic talent.

The unique paintings were chosen from over 50,000 entries nationwide to be made into stamps to mark the 50th Anniversary of the renowned Texaco Children’s Art competitions.

As President McAleese presented the awards to the top 21 overall winners in the art competition, she paid tribute to the quality of the entries.

“Some of the foremost leading painters were winners once upon a time when they were little,” she said.

“Your names will soar, they’ll be written in lights just like they are today.

“Names like Robert Ballagh, Graham Knuttel, Dorothy Cross and Bernadette Madden are very telling of just how important a marker this competition is in the lives of our artistically talented young people.”

Dozens of proud parents gathered around President McAleese as she viewed the 161 pieces of work by the young artists in Dublin’s Burlington Hotel today.

“Well done to everybody, congratulations to you all,” she said, as she shook hands with the younger children.

Abbie Walsh, aged 6, received a special merit for her drawing, but it was meeting President McAleese that left her lost for words.

Her mother, Aisling, said: “She was really excited to meet her, she was nearly upset as she shook hands with her.”

“It’s fantastic, it is more her own thing, she gets a chance to expand her mind.”

It is the second year, Abbie, who attends Skerries Arts School claimed a prize.

The top award went to 17-year-old Niamh Fanning, who beat off stiff competition from across 26 counties, to win the €1,500 UTV and Texaco Young Artist Commission.

Her chalk pastel drawing of her uncle Brian Flaherty carrying his son Rory on his shoulders won her the prestigious award.

“I’m delighted, though I’m still not sure if I will go on to study art or keep it as a hobby.

“I entered last year and won a merit but this year I worked really hard on the painting.

“I’ve always liked art but I don’t take lessons, just the classes in school,” said Niamh, who is in fifth year in Dublin’s Malahide Community School.

Stamp collectors from all over the globe will be gathering the four unique stamps, chosen from the 21 finalists.

The youngest artist picked was seven-year-old Cian Colman, who also attends Skerries Art School.

Half a million 48c stamps of his drawing ‘Marmalade Cat’ will be featuring on letters from today.

And 300,000 of each of Daire Lee, Daire O’Rourke and Ailish Fitzpatrick’s works of art are also printed.

Ailish, from Kilrush in Co Clare, said she was delighted with the €1 stamp of her painting ‘Fish On A Dish’.

“I didn’t know until today I just found out,” the 13-year-old added.

“I do art at school and I don’t know if I will go on to study art but I’ll definitely keep it as a hobby.”

Ms McAleese praised their efforts, adding: “They are extraordinarily gifted young people, not just in art but gifted in personality too, you were all wonderful to meet.”

The four stamps are available from today in the country’s main post offices.

A spokesperson for An Post said: “We found paintings that work well on a stamp in miniatures, as not all lend themselves to that.

“The series of four presents children’s art in all its colour and vibrancy.”

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