Golden moment: President presents Gaisce medals


YOUNG PEOPLE from across Ireland were honoured yesterday by President Mary McAleese, who presented 70 Gaisce gold award winners with their medals at a ceremony in Dublin Castle.

Several recipients came dressed in the uniforms of various organisations that they have already gone on to join through their activities, such as the Garda Reserve or the Irish Red Cross.

Described officially as “a challenge from the President of Ireland to young people”, the Gaisce programme began in 1985 and honours 15- to 25-year-olds from across the island. Recipients of the gold award must complete tasks in the areas of community involvement, personal skill, physical recreation and adventure journey as well as partaking in a residential project.

“These are young people that are so worthy not just of gold, and we are delighted to see them getting gold, but they are worthy of respect and of pride” said Mrs McAleese.

“The path to Gaisce gold is not easy. It is not for people that want the easy life. It is for people who are prepared to make sacrifices.”

Winners honoured yesterday included Diarmuid Barry from Rathcormac in Co Cork, who undertook a four-day trek at the Great Wall of China for Bóthar, and Niamh Coyne from Clifden, Co Galway, who founded a “Best Buddies” programme in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology that pairs students with a peer who has an intellectual disability.

Commenting on the future exploits of those honoured in the ceremony, Mrs McAleese said that they will be active and responsive citizens and that “we will all take great, great pride from [them]”.

“I’m only sad that today will be my last time to be on this platform to have the honour and the privilege of awarding them their hugely deserved gold awards,” she said.

The President’s patronage of the awards over the past 14 years was praised by Gaisce chief executive Barney Callaghan, who thanked her for her “creativity and consistent inspiration”.Mrs McAleese was then presented with a solid silver bookmark adorned with the presidential symbol in recognition of her work.