It was a very special occasion recently for one Longford woman when she had the honour of meeting with the President of Ireland, Mrs Mary McAleese. Newtownforbes native Sarah McCormack made a presentation to the President at Aras an Uachtarain in her capacity as newly elected chairperson of the Soroptimist International Mullingar and District Club which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
To mark the 20th anniversary and in recognition of the voluntary work of the soroptimists, President McAleese hosted the members of the Mullingar club and their invited guests at the Aras on Monday, June 20 last. “The President met with each member of the group and engaged in conversation with everyone,” explained Ms McCormack, adding that she then presented her with a unique piece of sculpture from Genesis Fine Art, Mullingar. “The sculpture links ancient Mullingar history and the work of soroptimists and was a miniature version of the large sculpture of two friars that sits in Austin Friar Street, Mullingar. In 1996 the foundations of the priory of St Mary, the house of God of Mullingar and its adjacent burial ground were uncovered during building excavations. President McAleese was in awe when she heard that the priory was founded in 1227 and housed the canons of the St Augustine order.”
Ms McCormack went on to say that during the excavation work, archaeologists discovered several graves which contained scallop shells, proving that those buried there had been on pilgrimage to the grave of St James in Compostela in NW Spain. “For the Millennium the soroptimists commissioned the large sculpture which stands in Austin Friar Street, the place where some of the graves were found,” she said. “President McAleese was very interested to hear that the sculpture comprised two friars sitting on the bench with the older wearing a shell and reading a pilgrims blessing to the younger while the younger friar boasts a scrip (BAG), holding a staff in preparation for his journey.”
The President then shared some refreshments with the group and chatted about the Queens visit and her upcoming move from the Aras.
Next matter on Ms McCormack’s list is the establishment of a similar club in her native Longford. “I would love to see Longford setting up a Soroptimist Club,” she said, adding that members of the Mullingar Club would provide all the support necessary. “There are 26 Clubs in Ireland and it would be great to see a club in Longford.”
Soroptimist International is a world wide organisation for women which aims to inspire action and create opportunities for transformation in the lives of women and girls by advocating for equity and equality of opportunities, the creation of safe and healthy environments, the provision of access to education and development of leadership and practical skills for a sustainable future.