In a special ceremony today (Friday 11th March) at Tallaght Hospital School, a group of young students received delivery of a handmade Irish flag by members of the Defence Forces in the final ceremony of the hugely successful Flags for Schools initiative. The visit to Tallaght Hospital is the final stop of the nationwide programme, which saw thousands of young people learn about the history of the Irish flag and create their own event to mark this special occasion.
Since September 2015, over 3,200 flags have been delivered to Primary Schools across the republic by the Defence Forces, with a further 6,000 students and teachers attending a special ceremony in Croke Park on Monday 7th March to receive their flags and a copy of the proclamation.
It is especially fitting that the finale of this initiative took place in Tallaght Hospital, which has its own historical connection to the Easter Rising. Both Kathleen Lynn (1874-1955) and Ella Webb (1877-1946), both of whom played key roles in the events of 1916, have wards named after them at the Hospital. After the Rising, they worked tirelessly to improve healthcare in Dublin, particularly for the poorest people, with Kathleen Lynn spearheading the opening of Saint Ultan’s Hospital in Charlemont, Street Dublin which cared for children from the tenements. Ella also worked as a physician at this hospital.
As part of the ceremony, which took place in the registered classroom at the Hospital, Lieutenant Deirdre Fahy spoke to the children about the history and protocols surrounding the national flag. At the end of the ceremony, the children were presented with a special pack containing a copy of the 1916 proclamation and a poster with the lyrics of Amhrán na bhFiann, the National Anthem.
Speaking at the presentation today, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “The Flags for Schools initiative has been one of the most important and successful initiatives of our centenary programme. The opportunity to share the values and symbolism of our national flag with our youngest citizens is one of the valuable legacies of this year. I would like to particularly thank the Defence Forces -Óglaigh Na hÉireann - who have carried out this enormous task with enthusiasm, passion and commitment over the last few months, ensuring that every school in the country, including those on the islands, have the chance to participate in this unique moment in Ireland's history.”
Vice Admiral Mark Mellett of the Defence Forces added: "The Flags to Schools initiative has been a huge success and the men and women of Óglaigh na hÉireann are privileged to have this opportunity to educate and engage the youth of Ireland on the flag and Proclamation of our country. Today there are soldiers, sailors and airmen and airwomen, wearing that same flag proudly as they uphold our sovereignty by land, sea and air, in addition to representing our conscience abroad through over 400 personnel deployed in 14 countries."
Speaking following the visit, David Slevin, CEO of Tallaght Hospital said, “It is a huge honour for Tallaght Hospital to welcome An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Vice Admiral Mark Mellett of the Irish Defence Forces. We are delighted to be the concluding school of the important Flags for Schools initiative as part of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme. Tallaght Hospital has a long history of service in Dublin extending back to the separate institutions of the Meath Hospital, founded in 1753, the National Children’s Hospital, founded in 1821 and the Adelaide Hospital, founded in 1839. Indeed two of our hospital wards are named after women who cared for the injured during the Easter Rising of 1916.”
The Flags for Schools initiative is part of several events happening throughout out the year to mark the centenary of 1916. The students were delighted to meet with An Taoiseach and had a very informative day, learning about 1916, the Proclamation and the Irish National Flag.