President Higgins and Sabina Higgins host a Family Day Garden Party

Sun 25th Jun, 2017 | 14:00
location: Áras an Uachtaráin

Speech at a Family Day Garden Party

Áras an Uachtaráin, 25 June 2017

Families do matter. For most of us, it is very hard to imagine life without a family, without people who care about us unconditionally, who accept us with all our faults and failings, and who we know we can count on no matter what happens in our lives.

Dia dhaoibh a chairde, Sabina and I would like to welcome you and thank you all for coming to the Áras today - céad míle fáilte roimh gach duine atá anseo.  

Tá súil agam go bhfuil sibh uilig ag baint taitnimh as bhur lá i ngairdíní Áras an Uachtaráin, is gairdíní atá ar a mbarr áilleachta an taca seo den bhliain de thoradh obair thiomanta na foirne garraíodóireachta. Tá freagairt iontach tugtha agaibh dár lucht siamsaíochta agus tá rogha gacha bídh réitithe daoibh ag foireann an Árais. 

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you all here today to Áras an Uachtaráin and to extend a special welcome to those of you who have travelled long distances to be with us. 

You have been invited here because somebody - perhaps a child, a friend or relative of yours expressed an interest in spending an afternoon at the Áras. I hope you will relax and enjoy your visit to this beautiful house that Sabina and I have lived since the 11th of the 11th 2011 following my inauguration at the 9th President of Ireland.

Today we celebrate our Family Day Garden Party, a wonderful occasion that gives us the opportunity to welcome so many families to Áras an Uachtaráin; families who have travelled from all over Ireland to be here today, filling this big house, this marquee, these lovely gardens with fun, laughter and happiness; the sound of music indeed.

The music we have assembled for today is simply fantastic.  Those we sought said ‘yes’ with such enthusiasm you could forget how much their fame goes before them!

It is wonderful to see you all enjoying this special family day but as we celebrate, I think we would all like to take a moment to think of our neighbours in London who suffered the dreadful tragedy at Grenfell Tower, many of whom lost family members and sadly for whom family life will never be the same again.

We live in an interdependent world so let us too remember families who have been displaced by conflict, natural disasters, climate change; families who may be grieving, or recalling a lost member.  To families everywhere in all circumstances, we send our warmest thoughts.

Families do matter.  For most of us, it is very hard to imagine life without a family, without people who care about us unconditionally, who accept us with all our faults and failings, and who we know we can count on no matter what happens in our lives. We also know that family life is never perfect; all of us have experienced the normal day to day differences and disagreements.  I am sure none of you here today would choose to be without your family, or would prefer to travel through life alone and without the support and love and concern that goes with that spoonful of interference and criticism -  just for good measure! So, I thank you all for coming here today to celebrate family life in all its diversity and all its contemporary forms. 

This time of year, is always a special time in the lives of families around the country, it is a time that marks the beginning of school holidays, a time which awakens happy memories in those of us who are no longer children. 

It is a time when we look forward to spending more time with our families – enjoying being free to maybe plan day trips to the park, beach, or to the zoo, stop to think about summers past, whether accurately remembered or embellished!  They are precious memories we cherish and our fond recall of those good times, with more to come, keeps us buoyant through the challenging and sometimes difficult days.

Few of us get through life without encountering tough days, problems and crises of one sort or another and, whether we face sorrow or joy, there is no doubt that having the support of good family, friends, and neighbours, makes life’s journey so much easier. We are renowned for our strong culture of family and friendship and that is what we are celebrating today.  

Before I finish, I am delighted to be able to tell you today, at this very special garden party, a time when we celebrate and delight in the curious, energetic, enthusiastic and creative children around us that we will launch shortly, a new resource dedicated for children, the Children at the Áras website – Páistí ag an Áras.

This is a website with a wealth of information on Áras an Uachtaráin and the Office of the President, its history and functions, in an engaging and exciting child friendly format. I hope it inspires all of you children here today, as you learn so much about the nine Presidents of Ireland, history of the Presidency and how it has changed and adapted in a new and modern Ireland. 

There is much to see and learn on the website…there is even a quiz, which might be a particular attraction for those of you who may be suffering withdrawal symptoms from the school campus! I am confident you will all pass with flying colours.

I would like to thank Dublin City Council and Play Development Officer, Debby Clark, who have been instrumental in co-ordinating the wonderful entertainment and activities the children are enjoying here today, making this special day a marvellous success and a joy to witness. Like many adults in this age of advanced technology, I often look back to my own childhood: to the games we invented, the stories and plays we conjured up and the innovative ways we used whatever toys or props we had available to us. It is wonderful to see such imaginative play taking place in the Áras gardens today.

We all know that play is an important part of a child’s development.   Play is a child’s way of making sense of the world. Children have an innate and wonderful curiosity, keen to learn, to engage, to challenge, to bargain and to please. 

Playing gives them an opportunity to demonstrate all that they have observed and learned and it equips them to experiment their newly acquired skills in their own world.  

The sense of wonder children hold is so valuable and it is important that we nurture their desire to play and to learn, that we encourage them to develop their ideas, to experiment, to design, to build and create stories and stretch their imagination and skill. 

As I look around today, I am delighted to see in our children such promise for a caring and just society with all its possibilities.

Before I conclude, I would also like to thank our superb MC this afternoon, Alan Hughes, as well as our talented entertainers Arthur Greene, Gluais – Scoil Mhuire, The Booka Brass Band, Ye Vagabonds, Ham Sandwich, Curtis Walsh, Colm Ó hArgáin, Ruairi Ó hArgáin, Aoife Ní hArgáin, Fionnán Mac Gabhainn, Tara Vicardi and Meadhbh O’ Rourke.

Finally, a big thank you to the staff here at the Áras for their hard work, their unfailing good humour and – not least – culinary skills, all things which contribute in no small part to making this garden party a very special event for you.  Thank you to our friends in St John of God’s, the Gardaí and our Civil Defence colleagues, our Gaisce volunteers, the tour guides and all who have worked so hard to make today an occasion of friendship and joy.  

I wish you all a wonderful Summer with your families, a time of fun and enjoyment and the continued creation of happy memories that will remain with you throughout your lives. I certainly hope today will become one of those special memories.

May all of you enjoy the house, the gardens, and make yourself at home. 

Bainigí sult as an lá, agus bígí ar bhur suaimhneas.