Toddlers in tears as McAleese shows how it's done
IT was an emotional day for all. President Mary McAleese made her final official visit to Limerick yesterday where she opened a new creche in one of country's most deprived estates.
There was laughter, applause and, of course, plenty of tears from some of the toddlers who attend King's Island creche in St Mary's Park.
Waving homemade tricolours, up to 150 pupils from St Mary's boys and girls schools gave Mrs McAleese a rapturous welcome.
The €1.4m creche is in the centre of a neighbourhood that has suffered significant social problems for more than a decade. St Mary's Park is one of four areas in the city where regeneration agencies work.
Mrs McAleese said what was on offer at the creche was the city at its very best.
"This is Limerick at its absolute best, putting out its best for its children so that they will be the best and they will have the best," she said.
She said she had opened many creches, but that "this has to be, without the shadow of a doubt, the nicest creche in Ireland".
Standing on a newly constructed boat, the fuss was all too much for Leroy Behan (2) who burst into tears when he met the main guest.
His mother, Tanya, explained he had only been attending the creche for two weeks and that it was probably a bit too much for him. No such fears for Hayleigh Ryan, however, who was beaming after she was congratulated on her third birthday by Mrs McAleese.
The idea for the creche was first mooted 14 years ago and Mrs McAleese paid tribute to the community who helped to achieve it.
"We are here today because people didn't give up," she said.
She said it would have an important influence on the children and was an investment in their future.
She also showed the contenders to her office how it was done and spoke fluently as Gaeilge to the hundreds of people assembled.
Of the seven candidates contesting next week's election, only Michael D Higgins displayed a firm grasp of the language on the TG4 debate.
Before leaving, Mrs McAleese recalled being in Limerick for the launch of the regeneration programme in 2008 and said yesterday was "the outward expressions of people's inward desires becoming real".