2013-02-22 19:12:20 - The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins today (Friday, 22 February, 2013) became only the second person ever to be awarded the Honorary Freedom of the Town of Ennis.
The President, who was reared and educated in County Clare, attended a Civic Reception hosted in his honour by Ennis Town Council. President Higgins was joined in Ennis by his wife Sabina and family members, many of who live in the County.
Muhammad Ali, the three-time World Heavyweight Champion, was the inaugural recipient of the Honorary Freedom of the Town of Ennis during his historic visit to the Clare County Capital – the birthplace of his great grandfather Abe Grady.
President Higgins was welcomed to Waterpark House today by members of Ennis Town Council before being led into the Council’s Civic Room by piper Michael John Quigney of the Tulla Pipe Band. Local traditional musicians presented a specially-arranged musical tribute to
the President, while members of the Ennis Brand Band provided a trumpet fanfare after the President was officially awarded Freedom of the Town of Ennis.
Addressing today’s Civic Reception, Mayor of Ennis Cllr. Peter Considine acknowledged the President’s close connections with the Clare County Capital.
“Outside of the time you spent in Ennis particularly as a student in St. Flannan’s College, I know that from a personal and professional perspective you are very familiar with the town of Ennis, its history and the people who live here. During your time as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, you supported numerous projects and initiatives which sought to protect and promote the culture and heritage of towns such as Ennis.”
The Mayor added: “A Uachtarán – your lifelong contribution to politics has inspired many. You have transcended all politics, promoted integration, instilled hope of a brighter future through pragmatism, embraced positive change within Irish society, and most importantly upheld the Office of President with dignity and honour.”
Mayor Considine raised a laugh from the gathered audience when he suggested that the President and Muhammad Ali shared more than an honorary title.
He said: “In your days as a T.D. and Minister, some might agree that you also did ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’. Your pragmatic approach to dealing with issues in Irish society and indeed abroad, is internationally recognised and certainly has not gone unnoticed here. Your close ties with Ennis and County Clare along with your continued, valuable contribution to Irish society means we are proud and honoured that you have accepted this award.”
While born in Limerick, President Higgins was raised near Newmarket-on-Fergus, and educated at Ballycar National School and St. Flannan's College in Ennis.