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President Higgins and his wife Sabina will plant a tree in the Garden of Remembrance. Alamy Stock Photo

President Higgins is holding a Covid remembrance ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin today

An oak tree will be planted as a lasting memorial to victims of the pandemic.

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins and his wife Sabina will hold a special Covid-19 remembrance ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin today.

The event will honour everyone who died from Covid-19, those grieving the loss of their loved ones and frontline workers.

The Tánaiste, party leaders, the Lord Mayor of Dublin and a number of frontline workers from across the country will attend the ceremony.

As part of the ceremony, the President and Sabina will also plant an oak tree in the Commemorative Garden at Áras an Uachtaráin as a lasting memorial to victims of the pandemic.

Music will be performed by Iarla Ó Lionáird and Steve Cooney.

“Today is a very solemn occasion, at which we will give honour and hold in memory those we have lost, as well those who have suffered the absence of an opportunity for final moments shared and who could not release their grief,” President Higgins said in a statement.

“In doing so, we reflect on the more than 6,600 people who have died as a result of Covid-19 in this country over the past two years, their grieving families, and all those still suffering from Covid and its consequences.”

“Today we have to the forefront of our minds the more than half a million people in this country who lost loved ones during the pandemic, and all those, too, living abroad who have endured painful separation from loved ones at home in Ireland at times of great distress and grief.

“We recall how hard it was that there was no space for those normal expressions of grief that had to be curtailed because of the restrictions imposed, necessary as they were, to curtail the virus’s spread. We think too of those carers who had to forgo offering their care and visits to those they love,” the president added.

A number of commemorative ceremonies are taking place across the country today to remember those who died of Covid, including in Dublin, Kildare and Kilkenny. 

Taoiseach’s statement

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was due to attend the ceremony in the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin. However, due to testing positive for Covid-19 while visiting the White House in Washington, he will now miss the ceremony. 

Despite not being able to attend in person, the Taoiseach has issued a statement to mark the national day of remembrance.

In the statement, Martin said the day is an important moment in Ireland’s effort to reflect on and come to terms with the trauma of the pandemic. 

“It will be a poignant day for many, as we remember loved ones lost to the disease and as we remember all those others who passed away but couldn’t be grieved in the way we would have liked, or as they deserved,” he said. 

“The loss is enormous and it is profound, but we will come to terms with it in the same way that we have come through every other stage of the pandemic – as a community, united and there for each other.

Martin said recognising Ireland’s “extraordinary spirit of solidarity” during the pandemic is another key aspect of what today is about.

“In every section of our society, people dug more deeply and showed more resilience than they knew was possible. Countless acts of personal courage and quiet sacrifice saw our country through an unprecedented crisis, and helped save many thousands of vulnerable lives,” he said. 

 Everyone played their part and did was what asked of them, but our healthcare workers in particular clearly deserve special thanks on this day of recognition.
Without hesitation and before we even understood the true nature or scale of the threat, they put themselves in harm’s way to protect the rest of us. Without complaint, they cared for our sickest and brought dignity and compassion to the most fraught and difficult situations.

He also praised the delivery of the vaccine rollout across the country, calling it one of the most effective national vaccination programmes in the world.

He added that we do not yet know the full extent of the damage caused by Covid, acknowledging that many people are still struggling with the physical effects of the disease, while the wider social and psychological impact of what we have been through will take years to properly understand.

“But on this, our National Day of Remembrance and Recognition, we can and should take comfort and reassurance from the fact that no matter how bad it ever became, our national spirit held firm. Our communities remained united. We looked out for each other.

“While I am deeply disappointed not to be able to mark this moment in person with family, friends and colleagues, I know that the spirit of resilience that underpinned our great national effort over the last two years remains strong and it will see us through whatever challenges we face.”

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