Sunday 17 December 2017

Tea party's over as McAleese hosts farewell gathering

Luke Byrne

IF YOU stay too long, President Mary McAleese warned guests at the Aras, you'll have to help with the house moving.

It was the farewell senior citizens tea party yesterday -- something that became an almost-monthly institution during Mrs McAleese's presidency.

But the group of about 50 yesterday will be the last to take tea with Mrs McAleese, as her 14-year stint in the Phoenix Park draws rapidly to a close.

She will leave the Aras on November 10. A day later, the new president will be sworn in.

"We're in the process of packing up but, don't worry, it's not the dregs you're getting," Mrs McAleese laughed as the guests sat down for their tea.

"If you stay any longer you'll have to help with bringing the bags out," she added, joking her temporary residence was "becoming more temporary every minute."

Joined by husband Dr Martin McAleese, she moved effortlessly from table to table, raising laughs and smiles as she chatted with delighted guests.

Her proud parents, Paddy and Claire, were also there to witness their daughter's send-off.

"They say those who drink the water should be grateful to those who dug the well. I am grateful to my parents who dug that well," she said.

"Though I'm not sure my dad is great with a shovel," she laughed.

For Dublin's Emerald Girls Pipe band, the invitation was an honour that topped off their distinguished musical career.

The band was formed 72 years ago and there was disappointment that Margaret Lynch, one of the founding members, couldn't make it.

Bridget Barry and Julie Ann Fitzpatrick said that they had performed in America in the 1960s on some of the biggest shows at the time, including the famous 'Ed Sullivan Show', which gave the Beatles their big break.

They first performed for Mrs McAleese 10 years ago at the opening of St Joseph's church in Ballymun.

"She's been an excellent president; we'd have her for seven more years," Mrs Barry and Mrs Fitzpatrick agreed.

They told the Irish Independent that it was an "honour and a thrill" to be invited to Mrs McAleese's final tea party.

The members of the New Market Senior Citizen's Social Club, from Co Kilkenny, echoed those sentiments.

Mary Cuddihy and Lilly Burke said that they had only seen the Aras on television.

"It's amazing to be here for the last party, such an honour," they said.

Mrs McAleese will visit Irish troops in Lebanon this weekend on her last official trip abroad.

Irish Independent

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