President McAleese brings Christmas comfort to victims of Bandon floods
TIDINGS of comfort and joy were brought to Bandon on Monday with the visit of President Mary McAleese in an act of solidarity with business people and residents devastated by the worst flooding in the town's history in mid November.
The President and her husband, Dr. Martin McAleese, were greeted on arrival at the Town Hall by Mayor of Bandon, Gearoid Buckley and Cork county engineer and town manager Noel O'Keeffe. It was followed by a rapturous welcome by local elected representatives and invited guests on behalf of the emergency, statutory and voluntary services as well as local traders and affected householders.
In a flowing and heartfelt unscripted address, President McAleese opened by expressing her delight at seeing a sign on her arrival in town stating 'Bandon is alive!' but acknowledged that not so long ago, people, especially the elderly, were terrified by the worst flooding in living memory.
Thankfully, despite the utter devastation to businesses and homes in Bandon and many other parts of Ireland, no lives were lost and that, she stated, was down to the extraordinary spirit of 'meitheal' on the part of so many in which neighbour helped neighbour, just like one would see at harvest time. It was for that reason that she and her husband had come in an act of solidarity and to say a big 'thank you' to all concerned.
President McAleese thanked Bandon and Cork County Councils, Gardai, Army, Fire and Ambulance Services, Civil Defence, local businesses, charities, voluntary groups and other organizations and citizens who went "the extra ten miles" and worked long hours to ensure that those most affected were not left on their own. In doing so, they helped put back together again the lives of those who had experienced a trying, traumatic and distressing time and gave hope for better days for the people of Bandon.
"Nature did its worst but human nature did its best and human nature is what we rely on," said the head of state. Remarking on the cheerful appearance of the Town Hall with its Christmas tree, candles and fine fare, she said it showed the old spirit of meitheal was clearly alive and well in the town.
Wishing each and everyone a happy Christmas and all the best for 2010, President McAleese concluded "You make us proud in all you have accomplished against all the odds and I delighted to send out the message that Bandon is alive because the spirit of the people is not quenched."
Welcoming the President of Ireland, Mayor Gearoid Buckley said: " The town of Bandon and its people have recently been devastated by flooding which caused severe damage financially, physically and psychologically. However, the spirit of resilience and determination shown by the business sector and townspeople was extraordinary and it highlighted that this town is made of strong character and community. The unified effort of the community has ensured that Bandon is once again open for business and trade and indeed the presence of the President today salutes all those people who worked so tirelessly to get the town back on track.
"This occasion gives me the opportunity to thank all those people who volunteered their invaluable help and time in aiding the local authorities during the flood. However, today is also about looking forward and having President McAleese as an honoured guest in our community is a source of great encouragement and gives the town positive promotion.
"The people of Bandon highlighted during the floods that 'communities are the vehicles of power, not its point of application'. Let's all ensure that today's visit by President McAleese gives the town that extra piece of impetus to further promote all that is great about Bandon and its community," Mayor Buckley added.
Town clerk Pat Moore was master of ceremonies and the Mayor presented to President McAleese a Christmas hamper of Bandon gifts and produce.
Refreshments were provided by the Fas team based in the Town Hall including Breda O'Brien, supervisor; Catherine Taylor, John O'Mahony Ned Duffy, Robert Kidney and also Karen Coakley and they were assisted by pupils of Bandon Grammar School and Colaiste na Toirbhirte. Wall displays of the proposed Bandon Flood
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Relief Scheme highlighted the extent of the serious flooding, which was 2.5 metres above normal at MacSwiney Quay, along with amazing photographs while Mervyn Jeffers of Jeffers Sports, Pearse Street presented the President with a photograph of Bandon's main thoroughfare under water.
President McAleese was introduced to and mingled with the invited guests representing a cross section of the town. They included town councillors Margaret Murphy-O'Mahony, Andrew Coleman, Rose Holland, Rachel McCarthy, Sean O'Donovan, Gillian Coughlan, Cindy McCarthy and Deirdre Lane; county councillors Veronica Neville, Alan Coleman and Kevin Murphy; Jim O'Keeffe TD, Christy O'Sullivan TD, town engineer Raymond Crowley and council staff John O'Donovan, Marie O'Sullivan, Sylvia Carroll, Denis O'Donovan, Barry Kelly, Denis Brown, Billy Joyce and Abe Farr; Garda Supt. Eddie McEoin, Insp. Gerry Lacey, Sgt. Paul Kelly and Garda Joe Toner and Garda Michelle Kelleher; environmentalist Declan Waugh, Paul Griffin, Aidan Buckley, Ken Johnson, Denis O'Connell and John O'Connell of the fire service; business people Bob Deane, Brian Merrick, Eric Hickey, Barry O'Farrell, Don McCarthy, Don O'Sullivan, Joe McLaughlin, Eddie Goggin, Suzanne Murphy, Myra Dinneen, Tadhg and Ross Twomey, Mabel Deane, Daniel Quatrana, Bill Kelleher, Finbarr Barry, Seamus O'Mahony, Michael Crowley, Mary Rose O'Donovan, Kieran Thornton, Ann O'Mahony, Yvonne Coakley, Pat Dooley of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and residents Richard Conroy and Catriona McSweeney.
Earlier on Monday, the President visited City Hall, County Hall (see separate report) and Bro. Jerome Kelly Day Care Centre in Sheare's Street, Cork, to visit people affected by the flooding and members of support services and on Tuesday had similar engagements in Claregalway, Ennis, Gort, Ballinasloe and Athlone.
In her speech at Bandon, President McAleese also referred to the psychological trauma and emotional distress suffered by many people affected by the flooding. The Health Service Executive has issued a free leaflet entitled 'Coping with Flooding'. It is available by phoning the HSE Information Line at 1850 241850 or by logging on to www.hse.ie
The Irish Patchwork Society intends giving quilts hand made by its members to the Bandon Flood Relief Fund for presentation to persons most affected by the recent flooding. Donations can also be made to Bandon Flood Relief Fund, AIB Bandon, account no. 31361047, sort code 93-40-46.
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