Speech at a Community Garden Party
Áras an Uachtaráin, 3rd July 2015
Tugann sé an-áthas do Shaidhbhín agus dom féin fáilte a fhearadh romhaibh go léir go dtí Áras an Uachtaráin tráthnóna. Tá súil agam go bhfuil sibh uilig ag baint taitneamh as bhur gcuairt ar an teach agus ar na gairdíní.
[Sabina and I are delighted to welcome you all to Áras an Úachtaráin this afternoon. I hope you are all enjoying your visit to the house and gardens.]
The garden party season is a special time of the year here in the Áras as it gives Sabina and I an opportunity to meet members of communities across Ireland, to hear from them, and to share with them for a while the house and the grounds of Áras an Úachtaráin.
We are here today to recognise the importance of community and the solidarity that community organisations can build and foster in our society. This is a joyful occasion and many of the groups who are with us today are concerned with the joyful side of life: with sport, the arts and recreation.
May I say how welcome you all are here today, whether you have come as members of a family, a workplace, a profession, or a friendship or activity group. You will have had a variety of experiences and a multitude of different stories to share, because we are after all complex, multiple and social beings. Yet we are people who both need, and thrive, on a sense of solidarity with others.
A sense of unity, of kinship and of belonging is part of our being. In short we must always value that community spirit which holds our lives together, in all their diversity, here in Ireland, are so renowned. It is, therefore, as members of communities that you have both written to me and it is as representatives in your diversity that Sabina and I have invited you here today to Áras an Úachtaráin.
The opportunity to witness and share in so many community events across the country is something that Sabina and I really enjoy. These are always uplifting occasions, celebratory occasions and a reminder of the capacity of genuine solidarity to transform, re-imagine, restore and renew, and the sheer joy of doing something for all beyond the self.
In so many instances I have seen how vulnerable and marginalized citizens realise, with the assistance and solidarity of other citizens, opportunities and possibilities that would once have seemed unattainable: for example places of dereliction have been given new life, recrafted into flourishing centres of shared activity and enjoyment; and arts and culture have been brought right into the heart of villages and towns and suburbs and as a result of such efforts been shared with all.
I have also seen the genuine communal pride when Tidy Town awards are achieved, or when a school which has woven itself into the heart of the community celebrates a significant anniversary, and I have, of course, been deeply impressed by the many examples of care and compassion I have observed in hospitals, homes and rehabilitation centres. The real commitment made by so many in the voluntary sector in raising funds and your continued efforts at providing the best facilities possible for those in need is a valuable part of our shared citizenship.
And at the heart of all this activity lies an acknowledgement of the importance of interdependence and of a commitment to community that brings with it, not only a sense of belonging, but a sense of responsibility for those with whom we share the public space. A full sense of citizenship must bring with it an awareness of the personal role we all have, the opportunity, and may I say even the obligation, to play in creating and nurturing a vibrant, caring and forward looking society which will be inclusive of each and every member of society of all ages and enable them to fully participate in our shared lives.
We are especially pleased today to welcome here to the Áras representatives of the many new communities, including different faith communities, who are drawn from many regions across the world, who have established themselves and their families in Ireland.
Ireland has benefitted greatly in recent decades from the arrival in our country of migrants and their families. Those who have come have changed our country in remarkable ways, they have enriched our culture and our community, and they have enhanced all of our lives.
This is an opportunity for me as President of Ireland to welcome you all here to the home of the President and to say – you are welcome in our home and you are most warmly welcome in our country.
Now allow me to say that in our own 5,000 year old language which was the language of so many of our migrants and their ancestors:
Caithfidh sochaí chuimsitheach a bheith bunaithe ar phobail scafánta atá fréamhaithe i ngach a bhfuil i gcoitinne acu féin, ach is pobail bhisiúla fhorásacha de thoradh glacadh leis an iomad creideamh, cultúr agus inniúlachtaí difriúla atá acu siúd ar mian leo a bheith rannpháirteach i saol a bpobal féinig. Is le pobail den sórt sin, agus le daoine fearacht sibh féin, gur féidir linn díriú ar shochaí a cheapadh agus a thabhairt ar an saol a bheidh cóir daonlathach go firinneach, arb éard a bheidh inti fíor-Phoblacht.
[An inclusive society must be founded on strong communities that are rooted in all that is shared in common, but which grow and flourish through an acceptance of the many different beliefs, cultures and abilities of those who wish to participate in the life of their community. It is with such communities, and with people like yourselves, that we can aim to imagine and realise a truly just and democratic society, a real Republic.]
Again, may I congratulate and commend all of you for the efforts you generously and unstintingly are putting into your role as citizens, for working so hard to keep community and family at the heart of our society. Despite the many difficulties we as a people have faced in recent times, we draw hope and determination from that sense of active citizenship, local partnership and deep community spirit that has remained at the centre of communities around the country.
I would like to conclude by thanking all those who have worked so hard on behalf of the Áras to make this a wonderful occasion for you. A big thank you to our MC Vincent Woods and also to David O’Connor, Colm Ó hArgáin and Fionn Morrison, Éanna Drury, Ian Doyle, Fiona Gryson and Tara Viscardi, Lucy O’Byrne and Gerry Fish for the magnificent entertainment they have provided this afternoon.
On your behalf and my own, I salute the hard work, unfailing good humour and – not least – culinary skills of the staff here in Áras an Uachtaráin, the OPW, our friends from St. John of Gods, the Gaisce volunteers and may I say how grateful I am to Dee Rogers and his team for their technical skills that ensure our sound system works so well.
Sabina and I hope you have a great afternoon. Enjoy the rest of your time here and thank you for coming,
Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.