By Kieran O’Mahony
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins praised the combined efforts of both pupils and staff as he unveiled a new sculpture at Gaelscoil Mhichíl Uí Choileáín in Clonakilty last week.
As part of his visit to West Cork, President Higgins and his wife Sabina unveiled the ‘Percent for Art’ project as part of the school’s 20th anniversary celebrations.
With 350 pupils in a state-of-the-art building on Fernhill Road, this was certainly a day to remember for both pupils and staff.
From humble beginnings in 1995, when the gaelscoil operated out of a house, to a purpose built school in the town, it has been an incredible journey for all involved.
‘Castles are built gradually and without doubt, this wasn’t put together overnight. It took a lot of co-operation, planning and the organisation of ideas and imagination of each member of the school community to be included in this creative process,’ said President Higgins.
Designed by Édáin Ní Dhomhnaill, the sculpture is entitled ‘An Turas’ and President Higgins praised the pupils of the school involved in the preliminary work to choose a symbol for the project.
They got involved in workshops with Birdwatch Ireland and with Édáin herself, as well as undertaking a music and rhythm workshop with Ross Ó Snodaigh.
The President also praised the choice of the curlew, which is associated ‘with the history, heritage and nature of the surrounding area’. School principal Carmel Nic Airt welcome the presidential party and praised both past and present students for the contribution they have made to the success of Gaelscoil Mhichíl Uí Choileáin. Traolach Ó Donnabháin, chairman of the Board of Management was also in attendance and vice-principal Pádraig Ó hEachtaigheirn acted as MC for the ceremony.
Two descendants of Michael Collins’ mother, Mary Ann O’ Brien, pupils Joanne Ní Bhriain and Tomás Ó hAodha, also presented gifts to the President Higgins and Mrs Higgins.
Pupils played music for the presidential party, dignitaries and parents, and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh from Altan, who were also playing a celebratory concert that night at Inchydoney Lodge & Spa, also performed for the President. The pupils also gave a wonderful performance in Irish of ‘Tomorrow’ from the musical ‘Annie’.