Bree's gratitude for 'great honour' of visit
THE BACK of a juggernaut never looked so glamorous as Bree welcomed the President of Ireland and her aide-de-camp onto an improvised stage decked with flower boxes and tricolour garlands.
The President arrived to officially open Brí Beag, a fantastic new childcare facility beside the community hall, and was jokingly miffed that the young children showed more interest in her impressively uniformed assistant than herself.
' They all wanted to know who the man in the army uniform was. Maybe I'll leave the colonel here with you,' she said.
Addressing the families who sat on benches in the forecourt, Sinéad Parnell, a member of the Brí Beag board of management, put the President's visit into local perspective: ' The visits of Queen Elizabeth and President Obama were important, but they were not nearly as exciting as your visit here today. It is a great honour and a privilege for our village.'
Sinead said Bree was grateful to Pobal and the National Childcare Implementation Programme for enabling it to build a first-class centre offering high quality, affordable childcare and allowing children to learn at their own pace in a fun environment where the Irish language is informally encouraged.
She thanked everyone involved in the project during many years of planning including the trustees of the hall who provided the site.
' This centre will be serving the parents of the parish and their children when we are long gone,' said Sinéad, adding that the building represented the fulfilment of a dream.
The President opened her address with an Ulster-accented 'Conas atá sibh?' 'Go maith!' the crowd replied. 'I bhfaid níos fearr na go maith. Tá sibh go hiontach,' insisted President McAleese as she described Bree as a perfect environment for children to grow up in.
'So much effort has gone into making sure that the little ones of Bree get the best start possible. People were prepared to persevere, to push and plan, attend committee meetings, fill out grant forms, all for the love of the children in this community.'
'You don't get a vibrant parish community unless you have people who care about community,' she said.
Describing Brí Beag as a home away from home, she said it was lovely to see children so happy and added that no-one could ask for more than what the people here had accomplished.
The President remarked that Bree might be waiting a lot longer to provide the new childcare facility if it was starting out now, given the country's economic difficulties. ' Thank goodness for people who didn't wait,' she said.
'We want our children to grow up, be safe and comfortable, and be the best they can be. What is learned in childhood is engraved in stone. If we engrave well we have happy children.'
'Well done to everyone,' she said, adding, as the sun beamed down: 'Whoever the weather committee was, let me congratulate you – we need them to get to work nationally.'
Community Development Group chairman Paud Moriarty said Bree, where the ICA was founded, had always been an ambitious community, and it took pride in what it had achieved today.
On behalf of the parish, he complimented President McAleese on her contribution to the country. 'You have been a beacon of hope in the good times and bad,' he told her.
Children from Brí Beag presented the President with home-made paper flowers and pictures along with a ' treasure chest containing lots of little surprises', as Angela Furlong put it.