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President Michael D. Higgins, accompanied by Margaret MacMahon, Director of the Samaritans in Clare meeting an greeting attendees during his visit to Ennis Samaritans to celebrate the group's 40th anniversary. Photograph by John Kelly

GALLERY: President visits Clare branch of Samaritans

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina visited the local branch of the Samaritans on the Kilrush Road in Ennis last week, as it celebrated its 40th anniversary.

The Samaritans provides confidential emotional support to people experiencing feelings of distress and despair, including feelings that may lead to suicide.

The current local director Margaret McMahon said Gardai had been at the branch well in advance of the visit, and around the Tuesday of the week before the Presidential visit it had been confirmed he would be coming.

On the day he presented certificates to two of the longest serving volunteers.

“One of them, Teresa, is one of the founding members and has 40 years of service, while another one, Mary, has 39 years,” said Margaret.

Speaking about the visit, she said that they had shown him their premises, while they found he was familiar with the charity.

“We brought him in and showed him our visitors room, the operations room and duty room and just talked about the service. He was familiar with it, he seemed to know about the setting up of the
Samaritans in Galway. Sabina was asking about the training and they were asking about our numbers.

“We introduced him to our volunteers who have more than 30 years of service, we have five people with more than 30 years of service. He spoke about the contribution made by the Samaritans, he said it was good citizenship in action.”

Outside in the car park of the branch, the President and Mrs Higgins met with more Samaritans volunteers past and present.

Margaret said it was a wonderful occasion for the branch.

“It was a great boost. We had an awful lot of volunteers from the last 40 years who came back for it. It was great to meet up.”

“It was a great acknowledgement and endorsement of the service, the volunteers and the people who founded the branch.”

She said that the organisation has received fantastic support from the people of Clare since its doors first opened back in 1982.

“We are very grateful to the people of Clare for their support of the last 40 years, we wouldn’t be there without them. People volunteering and giving donations is what has kept it open, it’s why it’s still there.”

The Samaritans can be contacted 24 hours a day on 116 123 or by email at jo@samaritans.org.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.