In 1966, young actress Sabina Coyne from Mayo was one of the cast of Insurrection, RTE’s TV series dramatising the events of 1916 and marking the 50th aniversary of the rising. At that time, she took her part among the cast, not knowing, but I suppose, not ruling out either, that 50 years on, she would be on the podium in O’Connell St to mark what will be a much more spectacular commemoration, in April 2016. All of that was two years before she met her life partner Michael D, before the beginning of their eventful journey that has brought them full circle, into the centre circle with the spotlights on full blast.
Much has been made in recent weeks about the many attributes that Michael D will bring to the role of President, but so far not a lot has been written about an aspect of his presidency that could yet turn out to be the most eventful. Sabina abounds wioth energy, always on the lookout for a project to fill that sort of innate busy-ness that is inherent in most Mayo people. It will not be possible, nor would it be right to place constraints on a woman who can potentially become the most impacting First Lady we have ever had.
Although, because our presidency is a non-executve role, unlike the US, there is no official role of First Lady, but then never before has there been a candidate for that role as willing and as resourceful as the one who will move in to the Áras this weekend.
During the campaign, she was a vision of colour and threads as she wore with distinction the work of Irish designers, never failing to reveal that she bought local and supported home-grown businesses and designers, but Sabina is more than just a mere clothes-horse.
One has no doubt, though, that Sabina will be chomping at the bit to get stuck into causes and projects that are deemed compatible with her role, and although it is a role that is restricted in many ways by the decorum and starchiness of the president’s office, it would be a great opportunity missed for Ireland, if she was not used to the fullness of her ability to push the causes that Ireland needs pushing at this time in her history. This all needs to be done without pigeonholing the President’s wife.
One of the greatest attributes she brings to the job is an appreciation of the power of imagination, and it is this, allied with the practicalities of her role, that will ultimately shape the contribution she makes to the presidency, in the build-up to the centenary of the Rising, by which time the shape of the Higgins’ administration will be fully inflated.
And so today Galway bids farewell and best wishes to Michael D and Sabina. Both have graced our local society for decades, and they will one day again, but for the next seven years they have a job to do. May they have the best of fortunes and the most interesting of times in their new abode in that grassy section of our capital.