Tea at the President’s House

Tea at the President’s House 1024 494 TruckScience

I was delighted to be invited to Áras an Uachataráin on Friday, to a reception to celebrate Female Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Creativity and the Sustainable Economy.  Life is indeed full of surprises!

So Presidential

Áras an Uachataráin (or ‘The home of the President’) was completed in 1751 and has been the home of the Irish president since 1938. The house is maintained in pristine condition.  The exterior walls are sparkling white, the gardens are immaculate, and the interior is palatial, with hand-woven carpets, imposing artwork and sparkling chandeliers throughout.

So Historical

We gathered in the Lafranchini, or State Corridor, before the reception commenced.  The corridor is lined with bronze busts of the Irish presidents to date, mounted on columns of pale Connemara marble.  The sense of history in the house was palpable, even over the excited chatter of the guests.

So Welcoming

We were led through the Entrance Hall, with its magnificent barrel-vaulted ceiling, to be introduced individually to President Michael D. Higgins, and his wife Sabina, in the State Drawing Room.

They seemed in no rush to ‘get through’ the introductions, and took the time to find out where each of us came from, what business we were in, etc.

So Inspiring

Following the introductions, the President addressed the guests in the State Reception Room.  A renowned human rights advocate, and clearly passionate about the benefits for all of a fair and equal society, President Higgins said that, “A society that does not support and encourage female entrepreneurs is a society that denies itself a vast pool of talent, creativity and innovation, a society that impoverishes itself by that denial.”

To nods from many of the women in the room, he tackled the gender pay gap, and noted that it is “so welcome that so many girls are now taking science.  But as careers are interrupted for family or social reasons, so many considerations prevent career resumption at an appropriate level.”  Full text of the President’s speech here.

There followed a speech from Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, in which she shared Tweets which demonstrated the esteem in which President Higgins is held internationally.

So Homely

The staff at the Áras are warm and friendly, and take great pride in the house.  A member of the waiting staff, who has worked at the house for 30 years, made sure to tell us that the food had all been home-made in the kitchen on-site. The President’s pooch, a Bernese mountain dog named Bród (or was it Shadow?), joined the fray too.

Tea was served in the State Dining Room, where portraits of past presidents hang on the walls.  Despite professional shots having been taken in the State Drawing Room, the very obliging aides made sure that everyone got a coveted snap with the President on their phone.

So Sociable

There is a strong entrepreneurial scene in Ireland, and over the years, we have had the opportunity to make many friendships with others making the journey.  It was fantastic to meet up with many women I have met on programs at Enterprise Ireland, Google, etc., including Anne Walsh of Allergy Lifestyle (left) and Stephanie O’Malley of Education Desty (right), and Dorothy Creaven of Element Wave (below).

So Many Reasons To Celebrate

As Mayo women, we were also privately celebrating Mayo Day, a day dedicated to the celebration of the arts and culture, vibrant communities, and unquenchable spirit of county Mayo, and we were honoured to meet with Sabina Higgins, who grew up on a small farm in Ballindine, Co. Mayo.  She is certainly a fantastic ambassador for that unquenchable Mayo spirit!

So Honoured

All in all, a day to remember! It was a privilege to have been part of it.

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