ACCEPTING the Freedom of Limerick this week, President Michael D Higgins could not let the moment pass without paying tribute to the late, great socialist Jim Kemmy.
While he may have only lived in Limerick for the first five years of his life, the President’s acceptance speech evinced a deep emotional connection with the city of his birth and its people.
“I am also encouraged to remember those from Limerick with whom I had a special connection, not least my friend and colleague Jim Kemmy, who represented the people of Limerick and the working people of this city with such passion and commitment for so many years,” said the President.
“Among those invitations I received over the years was often one to speak at the annual general meeting of the Ancient Guild of Stonemasons.
“Jimmy was deeply committed to Limerick in all its aspects. It was he who sought appropriate attention for Kate O’Brien and recently somebody sent me on a copy of Kate’s book, written about her five aunts, Presentation Parlour. It was he who first introduced me to the McCourt brothers and I also remember going with him as he accepted on behalf of the Cranberries a Hot Press award,” said the President.
This, he said, should be a lesson to the younger councillors who had gathered on the stage at the Milk Market for the conferral ceremony “that you have to be quite widespread in your interests”.
“Jimmy was also once kind enough to include a sample of my work in his anthology of the Limerick poets which he edited.
“And I am so pleased that the Old Limerick Journal has survived because it was the finest of the archaeological and historical journals being produced in Limerick,” he said.
President Higgins also remembered another, more recently departed, Limerick friend, the poet Desmond O’Grady, whose postcards from all over the world he had greatly enjoyed receiving.
And the President ended his speech with a recitation of O’Grady’s poem My Limerick Town.