Áras an Uachtaráin is the residence of the President of Ireland, and is located in Dublin's Phoenix Park, one of Europe's biggest parks. The Phoenix Park is also the residence of the American Ambassador to Ireland and the location of Dublin Zoo. The current President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins was not at home but we recieved a warm welcome from the President's staff.
The students were given a tour of the reception rooms and an excellent history of the former presidents of Ireland. Students were intrigued to discover that Ireland has already had two female presidents (Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese), and a president born in the United States (Eamonn deValera). The current President, a poet and lover of the arts, has left his mark throughout, and we enjoyed the eclectic collection of paintings and sculpture throughout. Our visit ended with an impromptu performance on the grand piano by participant Samantha, who now has a great story to tell about her visit!
Across the park we were greeted by the American Ambassador to Ireland, his Excellency Kevin O'Malley, and welcomed into his residence. The Ambassador bought us through the rose gardens and to the edge of the grounds, where we could see right across the south side of Dublin city to the Wicklow mountains.
There is a small moat on the edge of the grounds. The Ambassador explained that it was important there was no walls, fences or barricades between the grounds of the American Ambassador's home, and Ireland.
The Ambassador led us to the sculpture commemorating 9/11 which features a piece of the Twin Towers. The students were then given the oppurtunity for a question and answer session with the Ambassador. One of the great questions posed was 'how to I get your job!'