Limerick is a home away from home for Michael D

Donal O’Regan


Donal O’Regan

IT IS hoped that President elect, Michael D Higgins, will be a frequent visitor to Limerick as he was born in the city and relaxes in the county.

IT IS hoped that President elect, Michael D Higgins, will be a frequent visitor to Limerick as he was born in the city and relaxes in the county.

The speech he will read at his inauguration in Dublin Castle on Friday was written in Glenstal last weekend. Mr Higgins told the Limerick Leader that he has been coming to Glenstal on and off since 1994.

“When I was writing I found it a very nice place to be. Patrick Hederman is an old friend of mine. He wrote the preface to my new book. Simon and Ciaran are good friends of mine too and I would know an awful lot of the monks,” said Mr Higgins.

Fr Simon Sleeman said Mr Higgins came for a few days at a time during the election campaign to recharge his batteries.

“He finds it a spiritual home,” said Fr Sleeman.

The picture to the right was taken last year at the wedding of Jean Carberry and Michael O’Malley, Cappamore. Br Ciaran said Mr Higgins was delighted to pose with the happy couple.

The monk remembers that Mr Higgins was quite taken by the monastery dog Bede.

The new President is a member of the Bernese Mountain Dog Society and is getting a new one to bring to the Áras.

During a visit in the summer Mr Higgins popped in to the Cappamore Show and launched the Mary from Murroe festival.

And he also lent his support to another project in Murroe before leaving Glenstal on Monday morning.

Denis O’Malley is spearheading the Murroe news video diary, which will drop in DVDs of what is happening in the parish to the elderly and infirm.

Fr Sleeman said it will be handed in to nursing homes and people living on their own who may not be able to travel in to the village.

And they have a big exclusive in their first DVD as Mr Higgins did a piece to camera.

“He thought it was an excellent idea. He stressed the importance of reaching out to everyone in the community. He is very big on inclusiveness and that nobody should be left out. He was full of encouragement and wished the project well,” said Fr Sleeman.

While Mr Higgins has been coming to Glenstal since 1994, he and the Abbot, Br Hederman go back over 30 years.

“When I was editing a journal called The Crane Bag between 1977 and 1986, he wrote several articles for us and launched the issue on Socialism and Culture,” said Br Hederman

“In August, 1996, while he was Minister for Arts he came to spend 10 days at Glenstal Abbey to write some poetry, as he found it difficult to find the space and the time in his busy life for such alternative activity.

“During this time he also had interesting interaction with many of the community.”

On the day of his election as President Mr Higgins received a text message from Fr Simon Sleeman to tell him that October 28 was the Feast Day of St Simon, to which Mr Higgins replied that it was also the Feast Day of St Jude, patron saint of lost causes! joked Br Hederman.

“So there is much more to his relationship with the community at Glenstal Abbey than his personal connection with me. The most basic belief which he and I share is that art and poetry should have a profound influence on politics,” said Br Hederman.

In the preface to Mr Higgins’ “Collected Poems” Br Hederman wrote: “Michael D Higgins exercises the ambiguous dexterity of being both poet and politician. But his poetry is not the fruit of his politics; it is the other way round. He takes time out from the hectic world of politics to make the difficult and dangerous journey to the depths of his own humanity and comes back with wisdom gleaned from that harrowing expedition.”