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Gillian Lattimore, Elaine Bradley, Marie Collins and Anne English at Áras an Uachtaráin with president Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins.

Seed Savers take root at the Áras

AN EAST Clare non profit seed bank has branched out to Áras an Uachtaráin after presenting president Michael D Higgins with a special tree in memory of his dog. Irish Seed Savers Association received the presidential seal of approval recently after a Lough Key Crab tree was planted at Áras
an Uachtaráin in memory of the beloved Bernese Mountain Dog, Bród owned by President Higgins and his wife, Sabina.
President Higgins expressed his gratitude for the meaningful gesture from the Irish Seed Savers Association, emphasising the importance of preserving Ireland’s agricultural heritage. The planting of the Lough Key Crab tree at Áras an Uachtaráin serves as a poignant tribute to Bród and contributes to the protection of Ireland’s apple tree heritage.
Four members of the ISSA attended the planting ceremony including Communications Development Co-ordinator, Gillian Lattimore, Executive Director, Elaine Bradley, Orchard Team members, Marie Collins, Scariff, and Anne English.
Áras an Uachtaráin Head Gardener, Robert Norris showed the ISSA the area where the tree would be planted at Bród’s resting place. Ms Lattimore described the visit as fantastic.
“The four of us were welcomed to the Áras where we enjoyed a reception with Michael D and Sabina Higgins,” she said.
“We had tea and cake before Robert , Michael D and Sabina went outside for a photograph in the gardens.
“Robert brought us down to Bród’s burial place where two of the President’s dogs are also buried. There were two trees already planted on the burial place and now the Lough Key Crab is there in memory of Bród.
“We also met Misneach (3) another Bernese Mountain Dog, who was a friend of Bród’s and was jumping around the garden.
“We also discussed our conservation work for seeds and trees with the President for about 45 minutes. The President has always been very interested in our work.
“Robert showed us the gardens where food is grown. Since Michael D became President the gardens in the Áras have been given organic status. We will be sending Robert some of our lovely Irish heritage food crops such as cabbages and peas to grow in the Áras.
“It would be fabulous if they were on the menu when dignatories come to the Áras.”
The Irish Seed Savers Association house the Irish Heritage Apple Tree Collection with 180 variates of Irish apple trees. Many of those trees are replicated in the Áras and in University College Dublin.
It is conservation best practice to have a replication, which is done through grafting, a traditional orchard skill.
In an interview with The Clare Champion, Ms Lattimore recalled Irish Seed Savers had a marquee at the conservation zone at Bord Bia’s Bloom in the Phoenix Park.
When President Higgins came through this zone, he spotted the Lough Key Crab tree with its beautiful pink blossom.
President Higgins spoke with Daniel Connor, who was a member of ISSA’s garden team and was part of the Organic Ireland’s Internship Programme, informing him Bród had died a few weeks previously.
The President said he would love to have this tree in memory of Bród in Áras an Uachtaráin and invited ISSA representatives to his garden party, which was held last July.
A group from the Irish Seed Savers Association attended the garden party and continued to remain in contact with the president’s secretariat.
Ms Lattimore explained the seed bank had to wait until the Lough Key Crab tree was dormant when it had no buds or blossoms before it could be planted.
“President Higgins opened our seed bank in 2012. ISSA had received funding from LEADER to open up a new seed bank building with a state-of-the-art seed fridge,” she said.
“The President came along for the official inauguration of this building so he would be quite aware of the work we do.
“This would have been in his mind when he passed our marquee in Bloom and saw the tree, which is also an Irish Hertitage Apple Tree.”
Bród, who passed away in April of 2023 at the age of 11, had been a cherished member of the Higgins family since arriving as an 8-week-old puppy at the Áras.
Over the years, Bród brought joy to the thousands of visitors who had the pleasure of meeting him during their visits to Áras an Uachtaráin.
The Lough Key Crab tree holds significant importance as it is part of the National Irish Heritage Apple Tree Collection conserved at the Irish Seed Savers Association. This unique tree, discovered in the estate of Lough Key Forest Park at Boyle in County Roscommon, within the stump of a birch tree, boasts beautiful deep pink blossom, dark purple-tinged foliage, and deep crimson crab apples.
The Irish Seed Savers Association, established in 1991, stands as an environmental organization and social enterprise with a mission to conserve, protect, and utilize Ireland’s diverse genetic food crop heritage.
Committed to safeguarding food crop biodiversity for present and future generations, the organisation also focuses on educating the public on the sustainable and ethical use of these precious resources and preserving then for future generations.

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