THE affection shown by President Michael D Higgins this week for the city in which he was born will live long in the memory of those in attendance at the Milk Market to see him accept the Freedom of Limerick.
President Higgins became the first person so honoured following the merger of the city and county and he was an entirely deserving choice.
The dignified and substantive nature of his presidency thus far was very much in evidence when he charmed all before him by taking a trip down memory lane, Limerick style. Thus, the unseemly squabbling which had preceded the announcement of the honour earlier this year – with party politics of the lowest form making for a dismal spectacle at City Hall – was forgotten. Here was a man who truly deserves to take his place among the giants who came before him in receiving the highest honour that Limerick can bestow.
Nobody could have been left in any doubt but that his early childhood years in our city remain extremely important to Michael D. Many were surprised at how vivid were his memories, despite the fact that he left Limerick at a tender age. He spoke movingly of his friendship with the late Jim Kemmy – “Jimmy”, as he called him. These two left-wing politicians made their mark on Ireland a generation ago. They were on the same side in many a battle fought on behalf of social justice and, like our president, Kemmy was also a highly cultured man. It offended nobody’s sense of the appropriate that President Higgins should honour the memory of his friend during Limerick’s year as City of Culture.
In praising the response of many ordinary citizens when calamitous floods hit the city early this year, President Higgins quite rightly reflected that this spirit neighbourliness represented “the best of us”.
We in Ireland have been fortunate in our choice of president for many years now and the present incumbent, a proud son of our own city, will continue to do the country proud during his time at the Aras.
Congratulations, Uachtaráin – Limerick salutes you.