AS MICHAEL D is putting the final touches to his inauguration speech, about 300 members of the Irish Defence Forces are preparing to play their roles in today’s ceremony.
President-elect Michael D Higgins will be escorted to Dublin Castle this afternoon by two military troops wearing ceremonial uniforms.
The 30-person strong motorcycle cavalcade will escort Higgins’s car from the front and back to Dublin Castle, where there will be a military and political procession to St. Patrick’s Hall.
Inside, military personnel will hold flags in what is known as a “colour party”.
Following a short service of prayer at noon, the Chief Justice Susan Denham will read the Declaration of Office to the President-elect on the request of the Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Higgins will then sign the declaration, confirming him as the ninth President of Ireland.
After the official inauguration, a 21-gun-salute will take place at Collins Barracks and the tri-colour will be simultaneously raised at the Phoenix Park and Dublin Castle. The new President will then carry out his first official duty – the inspection of the Captain’s Guard of Honour in the Upper Courtyard.
A spokesman for the Defence Forces told TheJournal.ie that today marks a very special occasion for them.
“It is a very important ceremonial day as the supreme command is vested to the President,” he said. “We have rehearsed all of the different aspects of the day – including the guards, fly past and 21 gun salute.”
The Air Corps will perform a fly past after the inauguration. The moves of the four PC9 Pilatus aircraft were practised on Wednesday:
(Image from Photocall Ireland)
After the ceremony, President and Sabina Higgins will meet children and other invited members of the public in Dublin Castle’s courtyard. The motorcycle cavalcade will then escort the President and his family back to their new residence at Áras an Uachtaráin.
From 6.15pm, guests will start arriving for the State Reception, which is also being held at Dublin Castle. The President is due to arrive at 6.50pm.
There will only be finger food served at tonight’s reception.
Today’s ceremony takes the same format as that of Douglas Hyde’s back in 1938. However, there will be one subtle difference – the chair.
All of Ireland’s presidents have sat in this 19th-century seat during their inauguration ceremonies:
(Image from Office of Public Works)
The viceregal throne was initially used for British viceroys or lord lieutenants but was changed ahead of Hyde’s inauguration. Alterations included removing the crown and replacing it with the Irish harp.
Earlier this year, the Office of Public Works deemed the chair too tatty for use and commissioned a new one. The tendering process also nicely coincided with the Year of the Craft, of which President McAleese is a patron.
The brand new chair, which will be revealed this morning, was designed by Kildare artist John Lee.
The OPW said the most prominent feature of the new chair is the “free flowing sweeping arms which dynamically link the entire piece”. Lee, who is based in county Kildare, was inspired by the Irish saying “Céad Míle Fáilte” (meaning a hundred thousand welcomes).
The “welcoming arms” of the chair were designed to reflect the ambassadorial role of the President.
The new chair cost the OPW €3,548. The Declaration will be signed on the same mahogany table as used by previous presidents.
TheJournal.ie will be live-blogging the event from 11.30am so join our deputy editor Christine Bohan for all the details about the chair, the poetry, the fashion and more.