The President and Sabina Higgins unveil the People's Acorn

Mary Coughlan & Sharon Shannon lead the musical celebrations in Áras an Uachtaráin!

The temperature may have been hovering around zero, but there was tremendous warmth this afternoon in the Woodland Gardens as the President and Sabina Higgins unveiled Dearcán na nDaoine, AKA the People’s Acorn.

A striking addition to the collection of Public Art to be found at Áras an Uachtaráin, it was designed by Rachel Joynt who’s adorned her sculpture with thousands of pencils donated by schoolchildren from across the island.

The outer shell also incorporates the thoughts of 170 young pupils from seven schools who were asked to reflect on the fact that inside the acorn there is a time capsule that will be opened in 2116 – the bicentenary of the Rising.

They range from “How are the Kardashians?” and “Anything is possible” to “Did Sophie McLaughlin (My B.F.F.) become a master architect or a chef?” and “I would like racism & bullying to stop.”

The capsule contains contributions from members of the Bealtaine Writers’ Group and Lourdes Day Care Centre on Seán McDermott Street who collaborated on the project with poet Enda Wyley.

At the suggestion of Sabina Higgins, 16 silver birch trees have been planted nearby in commemoration of the executed leaders of the Rising.

“Since 2012 we have collectively been engaging in a period of reflection – the decade of commemoration - on the momentous events of a century ago that were to lead to an independent state, the partition of Ireland and eventually the birth of a republic," the President said. “Next year, we will install an artwork commemorating the 1913 Lockout and today we recall the Easter Rising, with our beautiful new addition to the grounds. What we sought was an appropriate and permanent tribute to the women and men whose effort and sacrifice contributed so much to Irish freedom and a symbol that would also serve as an inspiration towards realising the promise of a true republic, which remains a challenge for us all.

“We should not forget that the rebels were a group that had a variety of talents but a shared belief in the independence of Ireland," he continued. "Amongst their number were socialists, feminists, republicans, devout catholics, protestants, radicals and other ideologists compelled, in their different ways, to dream of an alternative existence to the subjugation of Irish people and their culture and they rejected the imposed deference to empire.”

As is now mandatory at Áras events, there was superb music from the Na Píobairí pipers, Mary Coughlan who hushed the State Reception Room with stripped down versions of the ‘Magdalene Laundries’ and ‘James Connolly’ and Sharon Sharron who triggered a hooley lead by Sabina Higgins!

Among the creative types The Phantom chatted to – he wasn’t on the guest list, but managed to sneak past Áras security! – were musician and film director Nick Kelly; Mick O’Dea who recently completed the official portrait of Michael D. that will hang in Leinster House before moving to the Áras when his presidential tenure ends; and photographer Amelia Stein who’s shot the likes of Aslan, Elvis Costello and Glen Hansard, to mention but a few...


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