Ceremony in Dublin marks start of Irish EU presidency

Mon, Dec 31, 2012, 00:00

The beginning of Ireland’s presidency of the European Union was marked by a flag raising ceremony at Dublin Castle this morning.

Ireland takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU for the seventh time, having last presided in 2004.

The ceremony also marked the 40th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the EU and the start of the Year of Citizens in Europe.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister  of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton were joined by Cabinet Ministers, MEPs, the Lord Mayor of Dublin Naoise Ó Muirí and other politicians and diplomats at the event.

Over 200 members of the public were also in attendance which began with music from the Defence Forces Band.

Mr Kenny reviewed an army guard of honour before the tricolour and the EU flag were raised over Dublin Castle. This was followed by an Ode to Joy. Gold and blue balloons were also released by school children and this year’s winners of the All-Island schools choir competition, the Methodist College Choir, Belfast, sang An Irish Blessing.

Mr Kenny said the presidency would be about stability, growth and jobs. “We’ll be in the business of solutions – a recovery country driving recovery in Europe,” he said.

He said the presidency would also bring “new hope, new possibility, new confidence to our peoples”.

Mr Gilmore said the Government would work hard to restore financial stability “right across the continent” to build conditions for job-creating growth. They had prioritised a series of legislative measures to boost the digital single market which had potential for jobs and growth, he said.

“2013 will b about recovery, both for Ireland and Europe,” he said. “As we become the first country in the euro zone to exit an EU-IMF programme, Ireland can and will be a success story for Europe again.”

Ms Creighton emphasised the “no-frills” nature of the presidency.

Speaking to journalists after the ceremony, she said the €60 million cost of hosting it was worthwhile.  “It’s an investment in Ireland’s reputation, it’s an investment in trying to pursue an agenda at EU level that matters very much to Ireland and to Irish people,” she said.

No frills meant the State would be spending more than a third less than in 2004, Ms Creighton said. There would be no major events in “very salubrious locations like Dromoland Castle and Ashford Castle”, she said.

“Everything will take place in State owned venues mostly in Dublin, so it will be a very cost effective presidency,” she said. Ireland would show Europe and the rest of the world that it is a competent country and can run the EU agenda but on “a very tight budget”.

A spectacular New Year’s Eve countdown, which is also marking the opening of The Gathering, was held tonight in Dublin.

NYE Dublin organiser Fáilte Ireland was expecting at crowd of up to 50,000 in the city centre.

Winding through the city centre from Suffolk Street from 6.30pm, the People’s Procession of Light  included firebreathers, stilt-walkers and lantern and LED light bearers. Upon its culmination at the gates of St Stephen’s Green , the 260 performers and 1,500 members of the public who registered to participate spelled out the words “The Gathering” to invited international media, including NBC and CNN.

The procession was followed by a Big Bang fireworks display over St Stephen’s Green and countdown concert at College Green which featured homegrown talent Bell X1, Ham Sandwich and Imelda May. The countdown to the new year  featured pyrotechnics and light projections on the facade of Trinity College.

Dún Laoghaire put on  two fireworks displays tonight, the first on the Carlisle Pier from 6pm and the second over the East Pier at midnight.

In Cork, a New Year’s Day ceremonial 21-gun salute on Spike Island tomorrow will  mark the first day of the Gathering 2013 in the county. It’s the first time such a salute will be fired from Cork Harbour in almost 30 years.

Derry kicksed off its year as the UK City of Culture this New Year’s Eve with a fireworks and pyrotechnics show, and music events. The city over the River Foyle was lit up just before 7pm.

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