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President and Sabina Higgins host Bloomsday Garden Party

Date: Sun 16th Jun, 2024 | 20:05

Uachtarán na hÉireann, President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina will this afternoon host a Bloomsday Garden Party at Áras an Uachtaráin.

Bloomsday, 16 June 1904, is the date immortalised in James Joyce’s 1922 novel Ulysses and named after the book’s protagonist Leopold Bloom.

Each year, the President and Sabina commence their series of summer Garden Parties with a special event to celebrate the work of James Joyce.

The importance of libraries and promoting reading will be a key theme of this year’s event, with attendees including, amongst others, library staff from across the country. There will be a South Dublin County Council mobile library in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin as part of the event.

The event will be MC’d by Seán Rocks and will include addresses by President Higgins and historian and trade unionist Dr John Callow, along with a number of musical performances, including Andrew Basquille accompanied by Eugene Murphy, FARÓ, Simon Morgan accompanied by Vincent Lynch, and The Honeydews.

In addition to the annual Bloomsday Garden Party, President Higgins has undertaken a number of initiatives over the course of his Presidency to mark the life and work of James Joyce.

In January of this year, the President unveiled a plaque in Rahoon Cemetery, Galway, to mark the connection of the grave of Michael ‘Sonny’ Bodkin with James Joyce, Nora Barnacle and Joyce’s acclaimed short story ‘The Dead’.

Joyce partly based the fictional character of Michael Furey on the real Michael ‘Sonny’ Bodkin, who had an earlier relationship with Nora Barnacle and died at the age of 20 from tuberculosis. Michael Bodkin’s grave is in the Bodkin Family Vault in Rahoon Cemetery.

This year is the 110th anniversary of the publication of ‘The Dead’ within James Joyce’s acclaimed collection Dubliners, and the plaque unveiling took place on the 83rd anniversary of Joyce’s death on 13 January 1941 in Zurich. The plaque has been commissioned by Galway City Council and was unveiled by the President at the Bodkin Family Vault in a ceremony attended by Michael Bodkin’s grandniece Mrs Mary O’Connor and her family. Mrs O’Connor will also be present at this afternoon’s Garden Party.

Also in January, President Higgins presented a Presidential Distinguished Service Award to Dr Fritz Senn of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation, at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin, in recognition of his work in the field of arts and culture and his devotion to the study of James Joyce, on whom he is one of the world’s foremost authorities.

Dr Senn has cared for the grave of James Joyce and Nora Barnacle in Fluntern Cemetery, Zurich, for many years. Last summer, following an announcement at last year’s Bloomsday Garden Party, on the initiative of President Higgins and with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and with the kind cooperation of the City of Zurich, a plaque was installed at the grave in honour of Joyce’s daughter Lucia. The plaque in Fluntern was commissioned in keeping with a commitment made by the President to Joyce’s late grandson, Stephen, in the final years of his life.

The tribute consists of a memorial stone inscribed with the words of ‘A Flower Given To My Daughter’, written by James Joyce for Lucia. It reads:

“Frail the white rose and frail are

Her hands that gave

Whose soul is sere and paler

Than time’s wan wave.


Rosefrail and fair — yet frailest

A wonder wild

In gentle eyes thou veilest,

My blue-veined child.”

The tradition of hosting Garden Parties in Áras an Uachtaráin was commenced by the first President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde. Each year, thousands of members of the public and representatives of organisations across the country are welcomed to the Áras at a series of Garden Parties.

Today’s Garden Party will be the 74th hosted by President and Sabina Higgins over the course of the President’s two terms in office. A further five garden parties and a concert will be hosted by the President and Sabina between today and 3 July, attended by a total of approximately 3,500 people.