President returns to Clare to his childhood school


President Michael D Higgins went back to his roots yesterday recalling playing junior B hurling and learning Greek during his formative years in Co Clare.

At Clare County Council’s headquarters in Ennis, the local authority bestowed its highest honour on President Higgins when it accorded him a civic reception.

Mayor of Clare Pat Hayes (FF) told him: “President, we consider you one of our own. Everyone wants to lay claim to a president and you follow a great tradition in Clare of following on from President Eamon de Valera and President Patrick Hillery.”

President Higgins and his brother, John, moved to Ballycar, Newmarket-on-Fergus, from Limerick when President Higgins was five to be reared by his aunt and uncle.

Their sister, Caitlín – who lives in Shannon – along with some of President Higgins’s old school friends from St Flannan’s College, Ennis, were in the public gallery to hear the President recall his early years at Ballycar.

“It was really the most formative period of my life because I was five when I came to Ballycar and I was in Clare until I was 19,” he said.

The President was a boarder and a day-boy during his time at St Flannan’s between 1955 and 1960 and recalled cycling the eight miles from his home at Ballycar to school in Ennis.

He also revealed his classmates at St Flannan’s gave him the nickname “Snowball”. He said: “Yes, I can confirm I was called Snowball. I was very pale and I had very blond curly long hair.”