WHEN the serving President of Ireland was accorded the highest honour the county of Clare can bestow, it was a proud family moment for two Clare citizens.
John Higgins from Newmarket-on-Fergus and Kathleen Lyons now living in Shannon were proud of their brother Michael as the whole chamber of Clare County Council stood to welcome him to the civic reception in his honour.
The siblings were not surprised however that their brother was now President of Ireland as they had always expected such greatness from him.
“He thought he would be President himself. I knew he would get there because he said it to me on his wedding day. He said ‘I will be a president one day’, and he done it. He was very confident. I agreed with him,” said Ms Lyons.
However for the two siblings it was those that were missing rather than those that were present that made the moment more poignant.
They recalled how during the ceremony they remembered mostly their mother, father, uncle Peter and Kitty “and how proud they would have been of him”.
“I was thinking of my mother. She would have been very proud of him. He was very close to our mother,” explained Ms Lyons.
“It was a great occasion and I am quite sure every one of them would be proud,” said John. “The people that has gone before us would be so proud. I am sure they are looking down with great pride.”
The President thanked the local authority and the people of Clare for the official ceremony and the honour associated with it.
During his address he recalled his first experience with local authorities.
“I remember one of the very first representations been made was by my father to Andy McMahon to know could he get the bushes cut on the old road to Ballycar but I am sure it has a wonderful surface now – I better say no more,” he said with a laugh.
Paying homage to his predecessors with Clare connections Paddy Hillery and Éamonn deValera, he told the people of Clare that the blue cedar tree planted by Maeve Hillery is the “one doing the best in Áras an Uachtaráin”.
The President and poet spoke of his regret at the death of Muris Ó Rocháin, founder of The Willie Clancy Festival in Miltown Malbay.
“Of all the small grants I gave as Minister [for Arts] it was the one to the Willie Clancy that I so enjoyed. It has been attended by my daughter in recent years, practically every year. And the sheer intelligence for having for example a music festival where people could bring their pipes, where they could be serviced, mended and repaired and so forth, was such an intelligent thing to do.
“I know Muris will live on in the music,” he said.
“Every year Clare puts on festivals of the highest standard built around traditional music and they attract visitors from across the globe.
“Visiting this part of Ireland, people discover that it is a place where the terrain and the landscape, the song and the melody, the rhythm and the harmonies are worn into the fabric of every day life in a lovely slow and sometimes ironic way,” he said of the county where he spent his childhood.
Above: President Michael D Higgins speaking at Irish Seed Savers during his visit to Clare on Thursday. Alan Place