A group of six young people from Donegal who are clients of the HSE Physical and Sensory Disabilities Services attended a community garden party at Áras an Uachtaráin in mid July where they got to meet President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina.
As it was a community garden party various community groups, health sector groups, religious groups as well as individual families from all over Ireland were invited to attend.
The invitation came as a result of the group sending a DVD, called “Moving On” to the president in October 2011 along with a letter stating that they would love the opportunity to meet with him and visit Áras an Uachtaráin.
The “Moving On” DVD was funded through Genio1 and the HSE West. It showcases a number of very significant short films, cartoons, and documentaries that were devised and produced by young people with physical disabilities from all over Donegal.
Through the magic medium of film, these future Spielberg’s have been able to have their say about everything, from using their strengths, refusal to allow barriers to stand in their way, and dealing with every day challenges that face young people.
The purpose of this DVD was to highlight the capabilities and strengths of project participants and how we in our communities can become more open and accepting of diversity and change.
The group got an opportunity to take pictures with members of the Irish Defence Force as well as a UN armoured tank, the restored 1920 armoured Rolls Royce, Sliabh na mBán, which formed part of General Michael Collins convoy that was ambushed on 22nd August 1922 at Béal na mBláth, West Cork, and the President’s Rolls Royce which were all on display outside Áras an Uachtaráin.
They then got to visit some of the formal rooms in the main house, including the presidential dining room, complete with table set out with all the presidential tableware.
After meeting briefly with the President and his wife they then went to the Hyde Room for light refreshments, including Áras an Uachtaráin organic apple juice.
Following this they retreated to the garden and listened to a range of entertainers performing in the marquee. The entertainers for the day were: Booka Brass Band, Owen Brady & the Blue Shakes, Lisa O’Neil, Maud in Cahoots, The Dublin City Rounders. The Master of Ceremonies on the day was John Creedon from RTE Radio.
When all the entertainers had performed, there was an address by President Higgins.
The group thoroughly enjoyed their trip to Dublin according to Saoirse Doyle: “It was an honour to be invited to meet the president at Áras an Uachtaráin, I really enjoyed the trip”
Shauna Coll summed up the day perfectly “It was a once in a life time experience to meet the president. The hospitality, including the entertainment and food, was fantastic.The garden party was very well organised. It is a great memory to have.”