President Michael D Higgins visits South Armagh

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Tuesday, March 19th, 2019
Community

An Tobar Community Wellness Centre and Social Farm recently hosted the historical occasion of a visit from President Michael D Higgins and his wife Mrs Sabina Higgins .

Photograph: Columba O’Hare/ Newry.ie

 

There was a festive atmosphere as around 120 invited guests gathered for the President’s arrival.

A guard of honour was provided by pupils of St Joseph’s High School Crossmaglen.

 

 

Earlier the President and his wife had attended the opening of a new school in Dungannon, Co Tyrone.

The President was invited to South Armagh by Mrs Una Walsh as part of the International Women’s Day celebrations.

An Tobar which is a new social enterprise based at Finnegan’s Nursery & Garden Centre, Silverbridge was the chosen venue for the visit as the President is a passionate  environmentalist and advocate of community development and social inclusion. 

Despite the pouring rain President Higgins took the time to shake hands with each of the pupils in the guard of honour before proceeding indoors.

 

 

Guests included many of the social farming and social and therapeutic horticulture participants who attend services at An Tobar CIC, as well as the An Tobar Team, the Finnegan family and some of their friends and neighbours.

Residents of Glencarron Nursing Home, Crossmaglen and Dealgan House, Dundalk also waited to greet the President.

Una Walsh welcomed the President and his wife to South Armagh and expertly entralled the visitors with a brief account of the rich heritage and history of Silverbridge and the surrounding Slieve Gullion and South Armagh area, while the local crowd looked on proudly.

Kathleen Finnegan continued by welcoming the Presidential party on behalf of the Finnegan family and the An Tobar team on what was she declared a ‘proud and historical day for Silverbridge and South Armagh.

 

 

She also thanked Una for all her dedication and hard work in the community and for organising such a prestigius event .

Kathleen Finnegan described how she and her sister Margaret’s desire to ‘give back to the community’ had led to them setting up An Tobar CIC in April 2018, having spent almost 30 years in the retail garden centre business. “People for years have been telling us how therapeutic it is here and how being here made them feel good,” she said.

“When we opened Libby’s Tearoom in 2015 we were pleasantly surprised to find that it quickly became a real social hub for the local community. We began to see the place through other people’s eyes and we realised that here was a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community.

“And so here we are now, living that dream and making it a reality. The name An Tobar means the well or wellspring and comes from a well on the farm which was locally regarded as a healing well.

 

 

She continued, “The name reflects our aim which is to improve the health and wellbeing of the community. Our aim is for people to feel connected and included, tell their stories and build communities.

“Our social and community events aim to bring people of all ages and abilities together. We believe that every individual should be treated with respect and feel included.

“I could quote statistic after statistic about deprivation in this area, about health inequalities and lack of access to services in South Armagh. But instead I want to focus on today as a day of celebration, to acknowledge all of our participants, to celebrate their individuality and uniqueness and the joy they bring to An Tobar every day.

 

 

Kathleen added, “I can honestly say that it is both a privelage and a pleasure to come to work alongside these people every day. The President and Mrs Higgins will have the opportunity to meet all our participants and see their work.”

An Tobar CIC offers a neutral venue without affiliation to politics or religion, providing community services for people of all ages and abilities . These include a range of community activities, classes , social and cultural events to promote community health and wellbeing.

 

 

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