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President visits Presentation

Presidential Visit 2010

The visit of President Mary McAleese to Presentation Primary School Fermoy on the 24 of June 2010.

The day we had waited for and prepared so enthusiastically for had finally dawned. The President of Ireland was coming to our school. The bunting fluttered cheerily in the breeze, the Irish tricolour flew high on the flagpole and the sunshine we had prayed for, blessed the day. The school looked picture perfect. Uniforms pressed, hair neatly combed, we were ready.

From early morning the school was a hive of activity and the excitement was palpable. We were ready to show President McAleese and her husband Dr. Martin McAleese a true Fermoy ‘Ceád Míle Faílte’. The sense of anticipation was felt all the way from Junior Infants to 6 class. Everyone had prepared so well and we were all conscious of the honour of hosting our President. Mid morning arrived and the bustle of earlier was replaced by silence as we listened for the sound of the presidential motorcade making it’s way into Fermoy. The sirens of the Garda motorcycle outriders added to the excitement as the President’s car drew into the car park. The Junior classes formed a delightful guard of honour and waved their Irish flags in welcome. The President and her husband responded with gracious smiles in appreciation of the children’s efforts.

Our Principal, Mrs. Kiely and Fr. Eugene Baker (Chairperson of the School Board of Management) were on hand to greet our esteemed visitors and to introduce the members of the Board of Management and the Parent’s Association to the President. Photographs and smiles all around and then a tour of the school with Mrs. Kiely guiding the President and her husband to each stop.

Mrs. McAleese was welcomed in First Class by an eager pupil, Sloane Quirke, who took her duty very seriously. A lovely surprise awaited the President, a set of handcrafted cards made specially to mark her birthday on the 27 of June. These were presented to her by Jamie Wheeler, a young man who shares the same birthday as the President. This gift was the first of the thoughtful and personalized mementos which Mrs. McAleese received on her visit to Presentation School.

The President then met and spoke with some pupils who gave her a detailed account of school activities such as the Green School and Health Promoting School initiatives as well as sports, cultural and craft activities. These pupils represented their school very well. The pupils had seen President McAleese’s photograph and studied about her in class but were gratified with her warm smile and genuine interest in what they had to tell her.

The President then viewed the newly opened, purpose built classroom and resource area for children presenting with autism, which she praised in her speech to the assembled school community. This assembly included pupils, teachers, staff members, board of management members, parents and a number of The Presentation Sisters. Fr. Baker, in his capacity as Chairperson of the School Board of Management formally welcomed the President calling the visit, ‘historic and memorable’. The pupils sang our national anthem, ‘Amhrán na bhFíann and entertained all present with a stirring rendition of ‘Trasna na dTonnta’.

The main event of the day was President McAleese’s speech, which was inspiring, encouraging, full of warmth and humanity. The President thanked the school community for their warm welcome and she praised the school for it’s all embracing nature.Mrs McAleese spoke of the importance of trying hard, even at things that are tough to do; ‘practice makes perfect’, she said. The children grinned as the President quoted her grandmother’s advice; ‘you don’t have to like homework, you just have to do it!’ The President spoke of the, ‘big hug’ that Presentation school has for everybody and how that was even more visible with the opening of the purpose-built autistic unit. The 6 class pupils listened intently to the President as she urged them to be great ‘ambassadors for the school’ as they ‘scatter out into the wider world’ but reminded them too that Presentation School would always be interested in them. The President thanked the school staff for their dedication, congratulated the children on their achievements and spoke of her delight at meeting ‘the absolute best in the country’.

To a standing ovation the President was presented with a painting of Fermoy Bridge designed and painted by the children and staff of the school. A beautiful bouquet of flowers fresh from the gardens of Castlehyde House was presented to the President. Ms. Bryan, our vice principal, highlighted the connection between Mr. Michael Flatley’s estate and the first President of Ireland Douglas Hyde. The President planted an oak tree and then signed the visitor’s book. All too soon her visit was at an end. The President’s parting words to the assembled community were; ‘I’m going to go home with joy and delight in my heart thanks to you’.

As Mrs. Kiely guided President McAleese and her husband Dr. Martin McAleese to their car, we too were full of ‘joy and delight’. Joy at the honour of hosting the President of Ireland, delight at seeing her genuine interest and of hearing her words of encouragement. It truly was a memorable occasion for all present. The day will live long in our memories and in our hearts. We should all be very proud of Presentation School.

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