THE oldest person in Ireland was among a select group of people who were invited to enjoy afternoon tea with Irish President Michael D Higgins this week.
Máirín Hughes, aged 109, was among the guests hosted at Áras an Uachtaráin by President Higgins and wife Sabina on Tuesday, May 29.
Ms Hughes, who was born in Belfast on May 22, 1914, grew up in Dublin and in Killarney, county Kerry.
Last week she celebrated her 109th birthday with friends, enjoying afternoon tea while on a vintage bus tour of Dublin’s Phoenix Park, before returning to her nursing home in the city’s Chapelizod village.
On her visit to Áras an Uachtaráin she enjoyed the company of a range of other guests of the President, including the iconic Irish film director, George Morrison, of Mise Éire and Saoirse? fame, who turned 100 in November 2022.
Two families who suffered the loss of loved ones during the Troubles were also in attendance.
Hugh O’Hare lost wife Margaret O’Hare in the massacre known as Bloody Friday.
Ms O’Hare was one of nine people killed when the IRA exploded 19 bombs across Belfast in an 80-minute period on July 21, 1972.
Barney O’Dowd was shot and seriously wounded by loyalist paramilitaries during an attack on his farmhouse in Ballydougan, Co Down, on January 4, 1976.
His eldest brother Joe and two of his sons, Barry and Declan, were killed in the attack.
While Barney, who turned 100 on May 3, was unable to attend the event, he was represented by his sons Noel and Loughlin O’Dowd and his daughter Eleanor O’Sullivan.
The event, which included a performance by the award-winning singer Simon Morgan, was organised to celebrate the “important role that a variety of people have and can play in different communities”, President Higgins confirmed.
In a speech made on the day, he explained: “Creating societies that are ethical, just, inclusive and peaceful, that allow for participation and the universal enjoyment of human rights, is a task for all of our citizens.
“Such societies can only emerge from communities that are ethical – communities working together, in solidarity, recognising the needs of all their members and, in particular, those who are vulnerable and marginalised.”
He added: “Each of us is vulnerable at some time in our lives, finding ourselves in need of the kindness, support and solidarity of our friends and neighbours. Is ar scáth a chéile a mhairimid.
“It is critical that we continue to work to build and maintain a strong sense of community which has been such an essential part of our Irishness and which continues to offer so much potential for the flourishing and fulfilment of our citizens.”