ST GABRIEL’S School and Centre in Dooradoyle has received a massive lift after President Michael D Higgins paid a visit.
As part of his official visit to Limerick, Ireland’s first citizen spent an hour seeing the crucial work done by the school in looking after children with physical and sensory disabilities.
Ennis Road native President Higgins and his wife Sabina were afforded a standing ovation as they were greeted with bunting.
When they entered the main classroom, the school’s 46 children sang the national anthem, assisted by harpist Sarah McNamara, who teaches the first class.
And it was a special day for 16-year-old Prospect lad Dean Kiely, who presented the President with a framed poem which two of the classes put together. In return, President Higgins autographed a copy of one of his poetry books for him.
Four-year-old Shanagolden girl Maia Malone presented Sabina with a bouquet of blowers.
As part of his visit, President Higgins saw how youngsters are treated in the sensory swimming pool before spending a private moment with Aishlin Quaid, 4, who is battling a life threatening brain tumour.
Addressing the audience, President Higgins said: “Places like St Gabriels do not happen by accident. Sometimes someone somewhere gets a brilliant insight, and a great movement of the heart and mind to want to provide a facility like this.” He referred to the founder of St Gabriel’s Arthur Crabtree.
And he also noted that many “celebrities” including the Munster squad have visited the facility.
“I was delighted to hear Paul O’Connell being recognised recently by the city of Limerick. But as someone put it to me: it was a formality. He already had that in the bag,” he said to laughter.
The President said the biggest tribute should go to all the “wonderfully dedicated” staff of the facility from the doctors to the social workers and the administrative staff.
“All the good things that happen here are because the people who work here care and are prepared to put in the effort,” he concluded.
Speaking after meeting the president, a delighted Dean said: “This is probably the best experience of my life! I was looking forward this day for ages.” He was really friendly to me. I think he appreciated our gift. I think he is a great man.”
Chief executive of St Gabriel’s Maire O’Leary said the day stands out as a highlight of the last five years.
“We are delighted that the President honoured us with his visit in the first place. He was so charming and well informed about St Gabriel’s. We are truly delighted he is back in Limerick,” she said, “There is such a warm and welcoming atmosphere here and we are delighted he could share that with us.”