President Higgins and Sabina Higgins hosts a Fáilte Garden Party

Mon 3rd Jul, 2017 | 14:00
location: Áras an Uachtaráin

Speech at “Fáilte” Garden Party

Áras an Uachtaráin, 3 July 2017

Is cuma cén bóthar, cén slí, whatever the road that has brought you here, you are part of an important group who have changed our country for the better, in remarkable ways, enriching our culture and our communities, and you have enhanced all our lives.

Tá áthas orm féin agus ar Saidhbhín fáilte a fhearadh romhaibh go hÁras an Uachtaráin. Tá áthas orainn go raibh sibh in ann a bheith linn le haghaidh tráthnóna aoibhnis, cairdis agus comhráite spreagthacha.

[Sabina and I are very happy to welcome you to Áras an Uachtaráin. We are delighted to be sharing your company for an afternoon of enjoyment, friendship and stimulating conversations.]

The garden party season is a special time of the year here in the Áras when Sabina and I welcome to Áras an Uachtaráin many citizens who have contributed, or are contributing, in their unique way to Irish society.

Today is a particularly joyful occasion as we receive the opportunity to acknowledge a special contribution as we extend a céad míle fáilte to some of our newer Irish citizens, who play an important role in modern, multi-cultural Ireland, a country constantly experiencing change, evolving and adapting in an increasingly interconnected world, a world that is beginning to realise our global interdependency, as we did in 2015 in Paris on Climate Change and in New York when we accepted the responsibility of re-thinking what we call ‘development’ and deciding that it has to be sustainable, respect nature and cultural settings.

The roads that brought so many of today’s guests to Ireland, whether they represent the 95,000 people who have taken part in citizenship ceremonies since they began five years ago, or the many children who have joined Irish families through adoption, are individual and unique.

Some of you came here seeking refuge from persecution, war and natural disasters; turning to your fellow global citizens for protection and shelter. Others came in search of a better future and increased opportunities for yourselves and your family. For some of you Ireland was meant to be a temporary adventure, but love for our country or indeed for one of its citizens exerted its strong pull.

Some of you here today have had to grapple with a strange language, a different climate, and a new set of social norms. Others among you may have experienced prejudice and stereotyping born of ignorance and fear. Many of you may have had to courageously move outside of your comfort zones in order to create new and better lives, whilst also making your valuable contribution and positive difference to your new communities.

Of course, there is a greatly joyous and uplifting story behind the presence of many of our guests. I speak of the children who travelled to Ireland to join new families through adoption; strengthening, completing and bringing great joy to those families while beginning their own journey of new hope and opportunity. Theirs is a tale that brought a greatly happy ending for the parents who had to overcome so many obstacles to bring their child home to Ireland, and of course positive new beginnings in so many ways.

Is cuma cén bóthar, cén slí, whatever the road that has brought you here, you are part of an important group who have changed our country for the better, in remarkable ways, enriching our culture and our communities, and you have enhanced all our lives. 21st century Ireland is a dynamic and cosmopolitan place, an Ireland that embraces the innovation, opportunity and creative energy that cultural diversity brings.

Citizens who have chosen to become Irish nationals bring with them a distinct and unique cultural background that has shaped and formed them and to which they remain profoundly connected. You must make sure you add your stories and experiences into ours.

Those who arrived here as welcome and long awaited members of adoptive families inherit the strands of two rich cultural heritages, both a vital part of their identity.

We have witnessed, in this new Ireland that we all share, and is under way, how it is through the combination of the best of such heritages that we weave new patterns to create the multi-cultural dimension of modern Ireland. As a society, we can be deeply grateful to all of you, including the parents of so many of the young children today, who work so generously to ensure the sharing of a valuable range and mix of traditions that have immeasurably enriched our society to the benefit of all. What we are making is a tapestry for our times and the future that will have many colours and threads, all important, part of the texture.

Many of the children have been enjoying the lovely games on the lawn this afternoon. 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. One of the most valuable publications of a great organisation, UNESCO, and its sister organisation, UNICEF, was its Games of the Children of the World.

Indeed, today is a greatly joyous occasion and I am delighted to have this opportunity to formally acknowledge and welcome those who contribute so much to the creation of a diverse and inclusive Ireland and who will, I am confident, play their own important role in shaping the Ireland of the future, the Ireland that we will hand on to a new generation.

Before I conclude, I would also like to thank our superb MC this afternoon Sean Moncrieff, as well as our talented entertainers in the house and gardens – David O’Connor on Piano; Trad. Group – Colm Fahy, Ruairí Ó hArgáin and M.J. McMahon; Tara Viscardi (Harpist); Meadhbh O’Rourke (Flautist); Donnacha Dwyer (Piper); The Ross O’Connor Quartet; The Thomas Ashe Pipe Band – and the performers here in the marquee - The King Kong Company, and the wonderful music of Jack O’Rourke and The Swing Cats.

Could I also thank Dee Rogers who is the maestro of our entertainment programme and draws all elements together with such style. Molaim é. Also, may I thank all of our colleagues in the OPW for their assistance.

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.

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.

Tá súil agam go mbeidh samhradh álainn agaibh le bhur gclanna, mar is tréimhse den bhliain í an samhradh le haghaidh grinn agus aoibhnis agus le haghaidh dea-chuimhní a chruthú a bheidh agaibh bhur saolta. Is é mo ghuí é go mbeidh an lá seo i measc na cuimhní speisialta sin.

[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.