President Michael D. Higgins, at a formal ceremony in Clonmel Town Hall on Friday last, 1st June, was bestowed with the Freedom of the Borough of Clonmel, the highest honour that the historic town council can award on behalf of the citizens of the town. The honour was conferred on our nation’s ninth President in recognition of his elevation to the office of the President of Ireland, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the academic, cultural and artistic life of our country and as a token of the high esteem in which he is held by the people of Clonmel.
The Honorary Freedom is usually reserved for well known dignatories or statesmen, who have made exceptional or unique contributions to the common good, or to persons who have made outstanding contributions to the business, commercial, educational or cultural life of the town and have brought credit to the town by their contribution to the common good.
President Higgins is the 22nd person to be thus honoured, and the fifth President of Ireland to so accept. The very first recipient was Charles Stewart Parnell who was honoured on 9th January 1885.
The President, in the company of his wife Sabina, and before a packed chamber, under the chair of the Mayor, Councillor Darren Ryan, said in accepting the honour that it was “with a great sense of respect towards those who have contributed significantly to the development of this town through the years.”
He went on to say that “Clonmel, is, indeed, a town surrounded by an abundance of rich lands and valleys. It is also, of course, a town with a rich and varied history, a dynamic and lively town with a proud cultural heritage.”
In a very interesting address to the chamber with invited guests from all walks of life in the town, President Higgins spoke about Clonmel’s journey through the ages right back to its Anglo Norman beginnings, to the contemporary centre of tourism, culture and trade that it is today.
Full reports and images of the historic day in this week’s issue of ‘The Nationalist’ on sale Wednesday.