On 27 October, the Linen Hall Library was honoured to welcome President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins.
The red carpet was rolled out for this special event. As a poet, President Higgins has always wanted to visit the Library in an official capacity and view the many world-renowned collections held here.
He was greeted by Director Julie Andrews and Linen Hall Board President Anne Davies. Other VIPs included Communities Minister Paul Givan, US Consul General Daniel Lawton, Department for Communities’ Deputy Permanent Secretary Ian Maye, and award-winning poet Sinéad Morrissey. Linen Hall Librarian Samantha McCombe showed President Higgins a selection of archive material which gave a flavour of the breadth of our historical items. Of particular interest to the President were pieces focussing on local poet Sir Samuel Ferguson. A cross-community choir comprising boys from Holy Cross Boys’ Primary School and Campbell College Junior School then performed for the assembled guests.
President Higgins gave a moving speech about the Linen Hall, and libraries in general, stressing their importance in the cultural identity of the island of Ireland. He remarked: “Belfast’s Linen Hall Library is one of several institutions in Northern Ireland that contribute in such valuable ways to fostering an open approach to our past and future. It is a shared space – a space in which people of all traditions gather to listen, to learn, but also to challenge.”
Julie Andrews says: “President Higgins’ visit to the Linen Hall Library underlines the importance this invaluable institution plays in the cultural landscape of Northern Ireland, and further afield. He was most impressed with the wealth of incomparable material held in our archives. His speech was pointed in its promotion of the vital role libraries play in our society, the Linen Hall in particular.”
The Linen Hall extends its thanks to all who made this day possible.
Read President Higgins’ full Linen Hall speech here: