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Is cúis mhór dom fáilte a chur romhaibh go léir chuig Áras an Uachtaráin.

It is a great pleasure for both Martin and I to welcome everybody here today to Áras an Uachtaráin. You have been invited here because somebody, a child, a friend or a relative of yours has expressed an interest in spending an afternoon at the Áras.   I can promise you that there is no better place to be.

This is a great time of year, isn’t it?  No school, lots of sunshine … well, it’s trying very hard to stay out from behind the clouds … holidays, lots of time to spend with your friends.  I bet you miss school, all the same!

Anyway, it’s wonderful to see you all looking so well – a tribute to the parents and grandparents here today who have turned the whole family out so well for this special occasion.  I am sure that there have been times when you have felt that your parents are always ‘on your case’ – making you do your homework, clean your room, help with housework when you want to do other things you enjoy.  But never forget that they have also been there for you when you were upset or angry, tired and hungry, to lift you out of low spirits and show you how to be happy and to make others happy.  Today’s families come in all shapes and sizes. They are the place where we learn how to love and be loved, where we learn to sort out our little disagreements and where we get the reassurance we need that we are wonderful, gifted people in our own unique, individual way.

And as parents and grandparents, every adult here knows the wonder of what our children teach us.  The world of their imagination is their playground.  They don’t wait around passively and anxiously waiting for others to bring fun and joy to their lives, they grasp at what life has to offer, they openly accept where they are and have an innocent curiosity about the world in which they live. There is nothing more marvelous than to see a child blossom, to hear their laughter at what we would see as the ordinary, simple things in life.  They offer to us a completely different perspective on the norm – and how wonderful it is to see the world through the unspoilt eyes of a child, where there are no limits to what magnificent things can be created by them and for them. We are proud of our children but more importantly it is through our children that we adults come to truly know about love. Even as we nag about homework, untidy bedrooms, or doing the housework, parents and children bring a wonderful richness to each others lives. So today I hope you will say a special thank you to each other, parents to children and children to parents and give each other the applause you deserve.

Martin and I want you to relax and enjoy your visit to the Áras, which, as President, I have the privilege of calling home. It is a day to take the opportunity of having a chat and making friends with members of other families around you. Afterwards you can stroll through the gardens and have a look at the lovely rooms in the main house.  This building we are now in was originally an indoor sports hall - a racquet court. Now it is Seomra de hÍde or the Hyde Room, named after our first President. It has been renovated and refurbished and is now also home to these wonderful paintings by the artist, Hughie O’Donoghue.

There is quite a team of people working today to make this your special day. The Áras staff are gifted at organising parties and they have been helped by our wonderful entertainers:  our MC for today, Paul Kennedy; Balloon Modellers, Mick McDermott and Steven Holland; Face Painters, Barbara Schmauct and Elaine Leigh; our Puppeteer, Paul Redmond and Magician, Pat Fallon; the wonderful Gardiner Street Gospel Choir, and the Four Tune Cookies you saw in the House earlier.  Thanks also to our first-aiders, John Gold and Lulu McGann.

Have a lovely day and a safe journey home with many happy memories of your day in Áras.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.