McAleese officially launches exhibition of State gifts

Gifts will be on display in King House until 2020

A large crowd of people gathered in King House, Boyle recently, for the official opening of an exhibition of State gifts given to former President of Ireland Mary McAleese during her 14-year term.

  Mrs McAleese donated these gifts to the nation through the Office of Public Works for the enjoyment of the people of Ireland.

  Roscommon County Council put together the exhibition of the collection, called ‘Intertwined’, which will be on display in King House until 2020.

  Mrs McAleese, who officially opened the exhibition, said: “The exhibition is beautifully done. Your heart would lift going into the room to see how much effort has gone into making these pieces looking fantastic.”

  It is fitting that the exhibition would be stored in Co. Roscommon for the next five years because Mrs McAleese has close links to the county. In fact the McAleeses are understood to have bought a burial plot in Ardcarne Cemetery!

  While Mary McAleese was born in Belfast, her father, Patrick Leneghan, was baptised in St Michael’s Church, Cootehall, in July 1925. Mrs McAleese now lives nearby, in a beautiful house in Kilmacarril, Cootehall, with her husband, Martin.

  Last Friday night, former President McAleese said that when she left Áras an Uachtaráin four years ago, it was no longer feasible for her to personally care for the hundreds of gifts she gathered during her two terms as president.

  “In November 2011, I moved from a 100-roomed house to a six-roomed house,” she said.

  “And I said that, when I looked at the gifts that had accumulated in the 100-roomed house over 14 years, I had a choice here: ‘I can spend the rest of my life dusting this stuff, or I can do something really sensible with it.

  “These gifts were given out of respect and love for Ireland.

  “I thought: ‘The right thing to do is to give all of this back to the people.  We have our memories.’ We have our flood of memories and they are enough.

  “It is important that these wonderful objects, many of them with great stories behind them, are available to the people who let me live in Áras an Uachtaráin for 14 years and to the generations to come.”

  The gifts are many and varied, donated to Mrs McAleese by figureheads in China, Malta, Thailand, Oman and Estonia, to name but a few.

  Mrs McAleese said: “These items show that, right around the world, there are people who wish Ireland well. I am delighted that this county that I love so much is now intertwined through these places.”

  At last Friday’s official opening, a number of other people addressed the attendance, including Mary Mullins, the arts officer of Roscommon County Council, and Clodagh Kelly, the curator of the exhibition.

  Cllr. Paddy Kilduff, the Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council, and Fine Gael TD Frank Feighan also spoke.

  Refreshments were served afterwards, while Mrs McAleese and her husband Martin engaged in friendly conversation with all concerned. Indeed, the couple are known among neighbours in Cootehall for their amiable nature.