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President Higgins launches next phase of Áras an Uachtaráin Biodiversity Programme

Date: Mon 31st May, 2021 | 15:02

President Higgins today launched a new partnership between Kylemore Abbey and Áras an Uachtaráin, aimed at enhancing the sustainable management of the grounds around the home of the President. 

Under the arrangement, two Connemara ponies owned by Kylemore Abbey in Connemara will spend 4 months a year in the grounds of the Áras, as part of a programme of work to enhance the biodiversity of the 130-acre site.

The first ponies to arrive at Áras an Uachtaráin are Gray Lass (affectionately known as “Snowy”) and her colt foal.

President Higgins was invited by Kylemore Abbey to name the foal, and the President has name it “Aimhirgin”, after Aimhirgin Gluingheal mac Mileadh, the Milesian warrior-poet of Irish mythology who is said to have defeated the Tuatha Dé Danann.

The arrangement arises from the recommendations in a recent biodiversity audit, commissioned by the OPW at the request of President Higgins, to develop a conservation management plan for the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin.

The Biodiversity Audit, undertaken by scientists from Trinity College Dublin, made a series of recommendations about the future sustainable management of the Áras grounds.

One of its key recommendations was that a sustainable grazing regime be put in place, to allow for an improvement in the biodiversity of the meadows within the Áras grounds. The aim is to promote a greater diversity of wildflowers and plants, along with increases in fauna dependent on such a diversity of flora.

80% of the 130-acre grounds around the Áras is classified as ‘natural habitat’, with 14 distinct habitats. The audit found 297 different species of plant, 247 species of invertebrates, 188 types of fungus, 51 bird species and 18 different species of mammal, from foxes and badgers to bats and pygmy shrews.

The audit also concluded that, although the current management of the land is already sensitive to biodiversity needs, there would be benefits to improving the quality of the semi-natural grasslands.. It recommended that low-intensity grazing by horses and cattle along with measures to reduce the nutrient load in the soil will help create the circumstances for more diverse plant life to take hold.

The partnership also builds on an earlier arrangement, dating back to President Childers, who presented a herd of pure-bred Connemara ponies to the State, in 1974. The current herd of ponies in the Connemara National Park are direct descendants of those presented by President Childers, a number of which were grazing in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin almost 50 years ago.