I.P.A – Section Ireland 60th Anniversary Celebrations
Friendship Week (12th – 18th April 2015)
Post By Kiran Gharial – London North Branch
When I read about Ireland’s 60th anniversary celebrations friendship week advertised in the IPA-UK website, I had made up my mind that I wanted to attend as it sounded like an exciting opportunity to explore the country and make new friends.
I got in touch with a PCSO Colleague to discuss further and he expressed interest in attending as well. And so in mid-April, we left Stanstead on-route to the “Emerald Isle”. Upon our arrival at Dublin Airport we were met by 3 local IPA members who kindly offered us transportation to Bewley’s Hotel for our first nights stay. At the hotel, I met up with a good friend of mine from France and he introduced us to a couple from San Diego who he had been conversing with. It didn’t take long for the ‘ice to break’ and before you could say “A Votre Sante!”, it was drinks all round – let the good times roll!
With Check-In and Registration complete, the official opening of the friendship week was conducted by IPA Section Ireland’s President and we were all welcomed by members of the ‘National Executive Committee’. This was followed by a delicious buffet meal and wine with music to keep us pleasantly entertained throughout the evening. Later on, a few of us were generously offered a trip to ‘Temple Bar’ to savor some rounds of Guinness at a local Pub/Bar.
There was a vast mixture of members from around the Globe. From the Americans (majority) and Canadians through to the Europeans. And everyone got along with one another in a fun and friendly manner!
The next day, we departed the hotel for a short tour of Dublin City, on our way to Garda H/Q in Phoenix Park. Following ‘meet & greet’, there was a reception by the Garda Assistant Commissioner and entertainment was provided by the Garda Band, Mounted, Dog, Traffic and Territorial Support Units. This included a grand display in the main square, where the various specialist units were on hand to answer any queries and put on a show. Afterwards, we left Phoenix Park for a visit to the world famous Guinness Brewery, which included a guided tour of the 7 floor factory and a free pint on the top floor – Cheers! From here overlooked a magnificent view of the City. Then we left Dublin on-route to Athlone – the perfect base to explore the midlands, the west and the lakelands. It was here that we all stayed in the wonderful Sheraton Hotel for the duration of our friendship week in Ireland.
The following day, we left our Hotel for the eagerly awaited trip to Galway [City of the Tribes]. Lunch was served inside the underground ‘Galway Garda social club’ called ‘De Burgo’, followed by a presentation by IPA Ireland’s Vice -President. We then made our way to nearby Galway City Museum, which hosted a number of permanent and touring exhibitions. And then we went on a walking tour of the city, which included Eyre Square, the Town Halls, Lynch’s Castle, the Cathedral, the Spanish Arch and the Claddagh (shopping) tour – a great opportunity to buy a Claddagh ring which symbolises love, friendship and loyality.
The next day, following a presentation, we departed for the walking tour of Medieval Athlone – including a visit to Athlone Castle. Lunch was served inside ‘Seans Bar’ – the oldest Pub in Ireland on the banks of the River Shannon. Here, everyone joined in with traditional Irish folk music and a dance or two. Returning to the Hotel, there was an exhibition about the Garda Historical Society, Heritage and Tracing Ancestors.
Later on, late evening, a few of us ventured out into the Town Center and the first Pub/Bar we entered had put on a ‘Students Night’ theme – I felt as though I was back at my Uni days (Livin’ it up !!). It was great!
The following day, we left our Hotel for Bunratty Folk Park and it was here that we visited the Medieval Castle – the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland. Lunch was provided in Bunratty’s “Barn”. Afterwards, we departed for the journey to the ‘Cliffs of Moher’, to view one of Ireland’s great wonders of the world where the scenery is truly breath-taking! The return journey to Athlone was taken along the coast road through Ballyvaughan.
The next day, we departed for a tour of Mullingar Pewter gift and crafts shop which has an extensive range of pewter pieces and other Irish products handcrafted, on-site, in the traditional way by Irish craftsmen/women.
Then we visited Belvedere House where we had a tour of one of Ireland’s best known Georgian Houses. Afterwards, there was a guided tour of Kilbeggen Distillery where there was opportunity to sample some traditional Irish Scotch! Upon our return to the Hotel, there was an official opening of the National Congress by the Mayor of Athlone. Dinner was served in one of the hotel’s banqueting suites’ followed by a late-night drinks/music session down at the bar.
The following day, we set off for Clonmacnoise with a guided tour of the ancient burial ground. Next, we boarded a Viking cruise ship along the river Shannon, the longest and one of the most scenic rivers in Ireland. Lunch was served at the Hudson Bay Hotel (located at the center-core of Ireland) on the shores of Lough Ree. Dinner (and formal presentations) were served in the grand banqueting suite followed by a through-the-night drinks/live music session to end of the friendship week by means of a ‘grand finale’.
On the final day, it was time to say a sad farewell to all our friends as we departed to Dublin Airport.
I would like to offer a sincere Thank-You to Denis Dunne (Section Ireland IPA President); Pat Nunan, Marie Daly and Mick Walsh (Vice-Presidents); Donal Sweeney (Social Secretary); NEC Liaison members; Declan O’Byrne, Seamus Treacy, Eamonn McCarthy, Billy Saunderson, Joe Lynch; Willie Maye and Section Ireland IPA members Mary O’Connell; Maire Cahalan & Grainne O’Sullivan and to congratulate all the Section Ireland IPA members who were involved and contributed to a happy and successful friendship week.