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Readers blog: President is the man for these islands

Áras an Uachtaráin hosts garden tea parties at this time of year, and one was held on 20 June. It welcomed 20 representatives from each of 24 of Ireland’s islands.

In his welcoming speech, President Michael D Higgins spoke of “the boundless sea, which those of you who are fishermen, or who work on the ferry services know so well, is the element that connects us to our deep identity as an island civilisation.

“It is the natural highway our ancestors navigated so extensively, binding us to other lands, near and far, weaving the threads of the ancient cultures we share with Scotland, Wales, other parts of Britain, the edges of Europe and beyond, ancient bonds deeper and more important that the divergence of recent histories.”

An admirer of poets and also a published poet, President Higgins referenced a poem by Máirtín Ó Direáin, which “evokes those long, calm island evenings, with spring giving away to summer, where all is well and there is nowhere to compare....”

He reminded policy-makers how one-size-fits-all is not the best approach to the islands. Each island is different. He said we shouldn’t accept some islands being cut off from the mainland for several weeks in the year. And nor is it an adequate to request that some islanders move to the mainland to avail of public housing.

President Higgins spoke much on the issues that affect island people. He praised the EU-funded project, Aran Life, as an example for sustaining the island way of life.

He thanked the guests and those who organised the function, as well as the hard-working staff of Áras an Úachtaráin, for, as he said, “these are the biggest events in the Áras calendar and how all shoulders are put to the wheel to ensure our guests have a memorable day”. The President and his wife, Sabina’s lovely Bernese Mountain Dog, Bród, also does his part welcoming guests.

Some say the Presidency has no value, but I see how it, and the grand house of the Áras, brings people together to reflect and celebrate on what they can do to improve the quality of life of their communities. It represents the State and the people in a positive way.

Mary Sullivan

College Road


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