Despite the intense pressure on space and limitations on the numbers who can attend, there is expected to be a strong Galway presence at the various events that will see Michael D Higgins installed as the ninth president of Ireland.
President-elect Higgins’ inauguration will take place in St Patrick’s Hall in Dublin Castle tomorrow morning. Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina will be brought to the Castle in a 1974 Rolls Royce, escorted by motorcycle outriders drawn from the Defence Forces’ Second Cavalry Squadron.
The inauguration will be the first event of the day, followed by a lunch in Áras an Uachtaráin at 1.30pm, and a reception and banquet n Dublin Castle that evening. The inauguration is organised by the Taoiseach’s Office and attending the ceremony will be all Oireachtas members (TDs and Senators ), among them will be Galway West Labour TD Derek Nolan, who was President-elect Higgins’ director of elections for the constituency.
The ceremony will also be attended by members of the judiciary, the diplomatic corps, and senior civil servants. Michael and Sabina’s four children will be in attendance as well. Galway’s Cois Cladaigh choir will also sing at the inauguration tomorrow.
Choir conductor Dr Brendan O’Connor said Cois Cladaigh was “delighted and honoured” to be chosen to participate “at such a prestigious occasion and were proud to be representing Galway”.
Some Galway guests will get to attend all three ceremonies, but owing to pressure of space and limited numbers, some may only get to attend one or two of the events.
It is known that among the Galwegians attending events tomorrow will be Niall Kelly, a long serving member of The Labour Party in Galway, who was President-elect Higgins’ deputy-director of elections for Galway West, Labour city councillor Niall McNelis, Galway Advertiser chair Ronnie O’Gorman, and Galway Bay FM’s Keith Finnegan. There will also be members of the Michael D Higgins presidential election campaign team including Fidelma Mullane, and close personal friends of the President-elect.
Another Galway connection will be provided by GMIT Letterfrack graduate John Lee, who has designed and made the inauguration chair that will be used in the inaugural ceremony for President-elect Higgins tomorrow.
Mr Lee was awarded the commission following a tendering process conducted by the Office of Public Works to replace the previous chair, the ‘Vicegeral Throne’, made in the 19th Century for the British Viceroys or Lord Lieutenants of Ireland who controlled British administration in this country.
The OPW tender documents stated that a “high standard” of design was required and the new chair should be “presidential, not regal”. It should reflect the “national and pre-eminent role of the President”, without being “overwhelming or dominating and it must be of a sufficient timeless design and character to be suitable for use for many future inaugurations”.
Mr Lee drew inspiration from the Irish phrase céad mile failte and the ambassadorial role of the presidency. His design is a simple, contemporary chair, made in quarter sawn native white oak that features sweeping free flowing, welcoming arms and a gold embossed State Harp on an Irish presidential blue, also known as St Patrick’s Blue or Irish Blue leather hide for the chair back.
“The new chair is a modest and modern but not overwhelming piece,” says Mr Lee, “that reflects the dignity of the office of the President.”