UNVEILING The Tree of Generations sculpture at Lough Graney’s Kids’ Corner in Flagmount on Friday, President Michael D Higgins told the community their initiative was showing all Irish people how to seek the light.
The project was led by children of the Lough Graney Youth Club but had an inter-generational approach that involved the whole community of Flagmount.
President Higgins said the sculpture “will always be there as a symbol of what was possible”.
“It is important to have these kinds of visions and it is very inspiring to be invited to communities like that of Lough Graney to see them taking the initiative, leading the way and offering practical manifestations of what is our alternative. Isn’t it very interesting that we are all out in the open now and how different that is to that time when repression and bigotry and exclusion put women into the Magdalene Laundries. Isn’t it great to see that Ireland long gone. So we must learn to make sure we never close the door or never offer the darkness to people every again,” he said.
He added that in Flagmount, the celebration of the arts and the effort of those who give voluntary time to help young people, have led to a mutual respect between the generations in this community. He said the tree is the right image with both roots and branches to signify this mutual respect.
“The tree is something else too, the tree flourishes when it seeks the light and one of the great advantages of your efforts is that as a parish and as a community your showing us all as Irish people how to seek the light, how to achieve the light and let the light bring us all together to a new place to the Republic and the Irishness, which we really want for all of us,” President Higgins said.
He praised the young people and the talented creativity of the dedicated community who worked together in the spirit of co-operation as he unveiled The Tree of Generations in Flagmount on Friday.
In his speech at Lough Graney Kids’ Corner, the President said it was “one of the most celebratory events I have been at in a very, very long time”.
“What I think it is telling us is that at any time the place to go when times are difficult is to our own creativity. This part of Clare is full of it. To think that 100 people worked together over three months to do something and to prepare this beautiful piece, the Tree of Generations is to me just wonderful. Think of all the skills involved in making that beautiful tree. The constant factor through it is the wheel barrow, which starts moving stuff off site and at the end brings new materials in. How extraordinary and wonderful things happen when people have confidence in the symmetry between their own place, between nature and their own intelligence,” President Higgins added.
He praised the talents of the young performers on the day, which included the talents of local singer Vashti Curran, and youth leader Sharon Keane who delivered a passage from Brian Merriman’s The Midnight Court.
He also paid tribute to the artist in residence Margaret Curran and Kathleen McNamara as chairperson of Lough Graney Youth Club and made reference to the film undertaken by the youth group in 2010 called Inside/Out.
“I’ve often been quoting this lately of being the arrow and not the target this film was people telling their own story in their own way in all its light and shade, narratives that were placed side by side, memories and journeys of its residents all the different shared experiences. There’s nothing soft or sentimental about all that it is an exercise in democracy. Everyone should be entitled to tell their story to put their story alongside other stories. There is a great freedom in it. If we have one great asset in coming out of the recent depression we have been in, which was created over a period of about 10 years, it is that the generations in Ireland are not hostile to each other. I’d a long campaign for the presidency – it went on for between a year to a year and a half and I’ve often said I’ve never heard any young person say other than that they wanted older people to be looked after with care and dignity and when I would be going at Féile Bealtaine, for example, often to different homes and residencies, the older people would say they wanted a better Ireland a real republic for the young people,” he said.
President Higgins added that the sculpture, which celebrates the integration of the four elements, air, earth, fire and water, was a “wonderful achievement”, one which celebrates the human spirit.
“There’s nothing as practical as respecting art and culture and at times of unemployment and times of depression, you need the public world more than ever so that you know of that which is artificial and in the case of one of the decades, which was based on sand on property speculation, when that has fallen apart you still have lost no rights as a citizen. The other sheer joy of it is to look and another’s hands working alongside your own hands that’s what an Irishness that we can be proud of is,” he continued.
President Higgins told the assembly that while in Europe recently, he spoke with someone who said he “wanted Ireland to bring some joy into Europe”. The President said this was something that could be done through co-operation and the work youth leaders do with youth clubs.
“I quote a friend of mine, the late John O’Donohue. In one of his final books, he says, ‘May you find a harmony between your soul and your life’. What greater wish could there be, in the case of the younger people, to make sure that every child is respected, no child put to the margins, no bullying no exclusions, no uses of differences as a means of any exclusion, and as we go through life, for the life we have, of recognising the fundamental dignity of every single person whoever they are, wherever they are, whatever gender they are, whatever orientation they are, whatever arrangement they wish to make for their love for each other, that is the mark of a real republic,” he said.
The President concluded that the Tree of Generations would last and would be there to address any suggestion of helplessness as the community could say “We did this together by co-operating between generations”.