Taoiseach will 'respect wishes' for homecoming

Sun, Aug 12, 2012, 01:00

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he will “respect the wishes” of Ireland’s Olympic athletes, who he believes have made clear that they would prefer a Government-held reception at Farmleigh over any other kind of homecoming celebrations.

The team’s liaison officer Sonia O’Sullivan had spoken with the Irish team over the last few days, Mr Kenny said in London today.

“I think that the athletes had a particularly liking (for) an occasion in Farmleigh. In respecting their wishes, having had the liaison officer consult with the athletes, if that is what their wish is for themselves and for their families and the team is concerned, then the government will be happy to respond to that,” said Mr Kenny, who will attend the Olympics closing ceremony in London this evening.

Questioned about the controversy surrounding the homecoming arrangements for the Irish team, Mr Kenny said: “We have had this before with World Cup teams and European Championships, and athletics. I have no wish to get involved in all of the over-enthusiastic reactions that can occur from different parts of the country.”

Paying tribute to the entire Irish team, Mr Kenny said: “All of those men and women who have made the grade in terms of competing in sports are all heroes and heroines. It has been a wonderful Olympics for us, I actually believe that we can do even better in the future. It is about having a recognition of potential early on, it is about having facilities to have that potential nourished, but also when you think of Cian O’Connor and 2/100ths of a second it is about having the expertise to bring that potential to international and global victory,” he said.

He said he was “very proud” to have been a spectator for John Joe Nevin’s boxing bout last night.

Paying tribute to the London 2012 organisers, Mr Kenny said they had produced “an extraordinary performance”, adding that the fortnight had shown the deepening ties between Ireland and Britain.

He said the atmosphere at Croke Park during the historic rugby tie between Ireland and England in 2007 was “was actually matched by the extraordinary occasion in the ExCel arena when the British boxing fans were shouting for Ireland and the Irish boxing fans were shouting for England” on the day Katie Taylor won her gold medal.

“It is an extraordinary relationship that has developed and evolved between our two peoples. So in that sense it has been nothing but good and wonderful to witness.”