An amazing day to remember- An té a bhíonn siúlach bíonn scéalach. A day that will go down with great pride in the history of St. Pauls Community College is how the trip to Arás an Uachtaráin will be recalled by St. Paul’s CC students and staff.
It was with great pride and a sense of immense privilege that Principal of St. Paul’s Community College, Noreen Reilly received and accepted an invitation to accompany 25 students and 5 staff to Arás An Uachtaráin on Wednesday June 15th 2016.
This was to attend the state ceremonial event for Children “Children Seen and Heard 1916”, Garden Party, one of the final events of the official state 1916 programme. It was a very poignant event as it remembered the 40 children lost during the Easter rising. St. Paul’s CC had also remembered the children of the rising during their own proclamation day in March.
As part of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Commemorations programme, a series of workshops were held with children and young people throughout the country inviting students to highlight what they would like to change in the Ireland of 2016.
This special State ceremonial was hosted by President Michal D Higgins to remember the children who died in 1916 and to allow student to present their vison for Ireland 2016.
St Paul’s CC students were invited to the Arás to acknowledge their upcoming attendance at the international Commemoration of the Battle of the Somme, where they will participate in the centenary celebrations at the Tephal memorial in France in July 2016. This commemoration will be attended by world leaders.
This came about when teacher Mr. G Lohan entered a national competition and was awarded the honour of leading the only 25 students from Ireland to the Somme Celebrations. St Paul’s students will represent all Irish people lost in World War I on July 1st at the Thievpal memorial in France. Teacher Sandra Hennessey said “ St. Paul’s students were wonderful ambassadors for their school and their city and will represent Ireland with the same dignity and respect at the 100th anniversary of the battle of the Somme later this month”.
During the President’s opening speech at the Garden party on June 15th, students from St. Paul’s CC were particularly delighted when President Michael D Higgins especially welcomed St Paul’s and referenced the privilege it will be for St Paul’s CC students to participate in the international Commemoration at the Somme. President Higgins said he would also be in attendance in France on that day.
On arrival at Arás an Uachtaráin St Paul’s students and staff were greeted by Mrs Higgins, The grounds had been transformed for the occasion into a playground where students had the opportunity to enjoy popular games and a carousel from 1916.
On arrival, the students and staff visited the state rooms before going on “The Presidents Walk” which included a tour of the walled garden.
President Higgins was out walking in the garden at this time, when an impromptu guard of honour was formed by St. Paul’s CC students. When President Higgins stopped to inspect the guard of honour, he was presented with a beautiful card which was created by student Omaya Zarar and given to President Higgins by student Ian Maher. Students Rachel Purcell and Niamh Power presented President Higgins with framed copies of art work provided by students Omaya and Zianoor.
Principal Noreen Reilly presented President Higgins with a Waterford Crystal vase. Ms, Reilly then introduced Mr. Ger Lohan to President Higgins who commended Mr. Lohan on his achievement of winning the National competition which selected the St Paul’s students to attend the Somme event.
At 12:30 all present were invited into a large marquee which was decorated with the ceremonial presidential colours of blue and gold. A delicious light lunch was served by Arás an Uachtaráin staff who were delighted to chat to the young guests.
President Higgins formally welcomed all guests and during his speech, the President said that he was “certain” that this generation of children and young people would take better care of this world than his generation did.
Broadcaster Joe Duffy was MC for the event, he encouraged students to go out and play in the president’s garden after the formal part of the ceremony was over. The hopes and visons for a better Ireland were shared by students from around the country before Minister for children Catherine Zappone was presented with a report “Children seen and heard 1916-2016” which was based on the national consultation workshops with children of Ireland.
A poignant ceremony was then held to remember children of the rising where 40 lighting lanterns were brought by 40 Irish children to the stage. A time capsule was then buried in the grounds of Aras an Uachtaráin. This contains the hopes of todays Irish children. These included preservation of the Irish language, culture and warmth of Irish people, an end to the point’s race, better sex education and an end to smoking in the vicinity of children and no home work!
A tree planting ceremony was held in the grounds before all present were invited to return to the garden to enjoy the games and pose for photographs with the President and Mrs Higgins.
Michael Collin’s vintage car “Sliabh na mban” was also on view which was of particular interest to Principal Noreen Reilly, Deputy John Keane and Teacher Sandra Hennessy who all hail from Tipperary. Former President Eamon De Valera”s car was also on view at the front of the Aras.
School Secretary Jennifer Tobin, whose suggestion it was to bring our trip to the attention of President Higgins said it was a great day. She chatted with broadcaster Joe Duffy in the grounds of Arás an Uachtaráin. Programme Co-ordinator of the school and HE teacher Agnes Dayton enjoyed speaking with Mrs Higgins while Year Head Mai O Keeffe ensured that students Ian Maher and Ben Arrigan got their photo taken with President Higgins after the ceremony. Deputy Principal Mr Keane was wrestled by an orange “orangutan” before leaving the Arás.
Ms. Reilly and Mr. Keane said they were proud to lead this fantastic bunch of students and staff to Arás an Uachtaráin for such a momentous event.
Some student’s reflection on the day…..
Dylan Sheridan “I was blown away by my experience in Arás an Uachtaráin. It was amazing to see the President in person and to see the grounds and the house that he lives in.”
Ian Maher “It was a great honour to get to visit the Arás and meet the President – I appreciated it more than I expected to, my ambition now is to be President of Ireland”.
Ben Arrigan “An amazing day and a great experience let alone getting a photo with the President.”
Teacher Mai O Keeffe in the words of poet John Keats says “Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced”. After we were guests of honour at the garden party this summer, we now have a full sense of our citizenship. It was a pleasure and a privilege to have been part of the invited group of staff and students, a great and memorable day was had by all.