Irish president Michael D Higgins historic visit to the Midlands

President Higgins addressing members of the Irish community in the Guildhall in Coventry

President Higgins addressing members of the Irish community in the Guildhall in Coventry

Perhaps the saying, ‘Saving the good wine till last,’ could be applied to Irish President Michael D Higgins on the last date of his hectic four day state visit to Britain when he met up with members of the Irish community in Coventry.

The President, accompanied by his wife Sabina, received a real Céad Míle Fáilte from a large crowd gathered on the steps of Coventry’s Cathedral and later met up with more than 170 members of the Irish community in the city’s ornate Guildhall.

The visit to Coventry marked the final round in a hectic four-day series of engagements which included a banquet at Windsor Castle, visits to both Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and a gala concert at the Royal Albert Hall. En-route to Coventry the President visited the RSC and Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-on Avon.

During a well-delivered speech in Coventry’s Guildhall, the President said, “In 1944 when the war was raging Coventry reached out to another devastated city.

“I was honoured to be welcomed to Coventry Cathedral. Coventry is rightly respected for it’s outstanding work in the art of healing wounds post conflict and Coventry has extended it’s hand of solidarity to so many cities across the world, including Cork, which was the final stage of Her Majestry, Queen Elizabeth’s first visit to Ireland.

“It has been my privilege to continue strengthening the hand of friendship.

“I cannot think of a better place to bring this state visit to a close than with the Irish community.

“Thank you for the wonderful welcome you gave Sabine and myself`”.

Coventry based Derryman, Bob Brolly hosted the proceedings at the Guildhall and Jane Connolly, First Secretary at the Irish Embassy in London introduced the members of the Irish community to the President and his wife. Before departing, President Higgins and his wife met members of the Coventry branch if Comhaltas and Irish dancers from the local McHugh school provided their usual brilliant display. Local girl Maggie Gallagher who teaches Irish dance in the city and also teaches Line Dancing across the globe, assisted RTE TV with a live commentary during the events in the Guildhall.

Cork born local lady, Kay Forrest, Vice Chair of Coventry Irish Society and her colleagues, who had contributed so much to the President’s visit to Coventry managed a brave smile for the President, despite the fact that Coventry Irish Society is suffering from severe funding cuts and is appealing for financial assistance to avoid closure.

The President and his wife flew back to Ireland from Coventry Airport.