Clare People, Tuesday, November 29, 2005
The Dr. Hillery exhibition in the County Museum gives a flavour of Clare’s first political citizen, writes Joe O’ Muircheartaigh.
Pupils from Ennis National School were going to school on Paddy Hillery late last week – they were learning about the Clareman who made his mark on Irish and International politics like no other. They’d need more than a tour of the exhibition space in the County Museum devoted to the former president to get the full Paddy Hillery story, but this was a start and a significant one at that. They were guided through the exhibition by Tomás Mac Conmara of the museum. Pictures of Paddy were dotted around the room as he played out the role of politician, EU Commissioner and Head of State.
Dr. Hillery as a young TD with fellow Clare representative Eamon de Valera; Dr Hillery being sworn in as President of Ireland in succession to Cearbhall O’Dailaigh; Dr. Hillery receiving King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in Miltown Malbay in 1986. The pictures and accompanying booklet give a flavour of the Dr. Hillery story – from his election as a TD back in 1951 through to his days in Europe and onto his two terms as President of Ireland from 1976 to 1990.
The booklet’s back cover gives a flavour of the man – or in this case, what a briefing paper prepared for British Foreign Secretary Sir Alex Douglas-Home thought of Dr. Hillery in 1972 when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs.
“Dr Hillery is regarded as a powerhouse of ideas, one of the few members of Fianna Fáil who has new policies and is eager to implement them. Dr. Hillery has a pleasant manner. He can appear diffident and casual but has an undoubted intellectual capacity and a strong will; since the government crisis of 1970, he has appeared much more assured – even brash - and has handled the Dáil with confidence”.
Meanwhile, the momentoes on display give a flavour of some of the places President Hillery visited and also the people he received during his 14-year stint in Áras and Uachtarán. On a trip to Israel in 1985, Dr. Hillery was presented with surgical and pharmaceutical implements that dated from the first and second centuries by President Chaim Hertzog. In 1979, Irish-American astronaut Jim Irwin presented him with an Irish Tricolour that was flown to the moon on the flight of Apollo 15 in 1971.
“Dr Hillery and his wife Maeve had donated stuff to the library down the years”, reveals county librarian, Noel Crowley. “Then, after the county museum was opened, they made a very large donation of artefacts they had gathered”. “That’s what inspired us to have this exhibition of objects that form part of the Hillery Collection in the museum. It’s great that they came to Clare and we are honoured to have them on display”, added Mr Crowley.
The exhibition is open to all and is free of charge, as is entry to the museum which now attracts more visitors each year than flagship tourist ventures such as the Céide Fields.
The Dr. Hillery exhibition entitled “From There to Here” opened this month and will run February 2006.