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St Patrick's Greetings from President Mary McAleese - 2003
On this famous day of celebration we gather together drawn by the deep affection and pride which the name of Ireland evokes. It is a day of fun, of music, laughter and joy and it is a day to bring to mind memories some of which lift our hearts and others that weigh us down with grief and sadness.
The tragic memory of September 11th still haunts our minds and thinking back to that dreadful day we can see clearly how much we needed the strength and comfort of friends, how much we depended on each other for reassurance that we would and could transcend this darkness and find again the light of hope.
On that day the thoughts of Irish people everywhere turned to their loved ones far away. We were grateful for those who were safe and our hearts broke for those who suffered loss and injury. Today, as on every St. Patrick's Day we turn our hearts and minds again to each other across seas and continents and we affirm our deep bonds of affection and care for one another, bonds which time and tides cannot weaken.
Irish men and women have brought the name of Ireland to countless lands. They brought with them our culture and our unique history and they introduced many strangers to St Patrick and his people. They earned respect and admiration for the way in which they enriched their new homelands, often overcoming huge obstacles and difficulties. Today Ireland, the land that people once routinely left to seek opportunity is itself a land of opportunity and we too are being enriched by the cultural diversity brought by immigrants to our shores.
On this day we remind ourselves again of the many gifts brought to Ireland by our most famous immigrant, St Patrick. Although he first arrived among us over fifteen hundred years ago there is still a remarkable timeless integrity about his message of love, patience, forgiveness and tolerance. He believed these virtues could work miracles in transforming human relationships from conflict to harmony.
May his generous spirit inspire us today and every day and may you all enjoy a celebration on this day.
A Brief Biography
After graduating from Queen's University Belfast, Mary was called to the Northern Ireland Bar and practised mainly in criminal and family law.
In 1975 she was appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology in Trinity College Dublin, a position she held until 1979 when she joined RTÉ as a journalist and presenter. She returned to the Reid Professorship at Trinity in 1981, while still continuing part-time with RTÉ.
In 1987, Mary McAleese was appointed Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies which trains barristers and solicitors for the legal profession in Northern Ireland. In 1994, she was appointed a Pro-Vice Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast.
On 11 November, 1997, Mary McAleese was inaugurated as the eighth President of Ireland.
Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*
Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.