THE visit of Irish President Michael D Higgins has been described as miracle lifeline by the vice-chairman of the Coventry Irish Society.
Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina were welcomed to the city by its large Irish community as part of their historic trip to the UK.
Thousands of people lined the streets as he toured the cathedral and its ruins before meeting his fellow countrymen and women on what was a described as a memorable day.
But his visit comes amid fears the Irish community hub may not be able to survive past the summer because of a cash crisis.
The Coventry Irish Society (CIS) has been struggling for money in recent years after the council pulled the plug on its key annual £30,000 funding and it no longer has access to the survivors’ service funding.
But vice-chairman Kay Forrest told The Observer she believed the visit of Mr Higgins would change their fortunes.
“It was a fantastic day for a city that has been so good to many Irish people down the years.” said Kay, who came to Coventry as a 16-year-old from Cork back in 1958.
“We have lost around £90,000 in funding but this is where we are at the moment.
“But the visit of the Irish President could open up the gates, we’ve been waiting for something like this years.
“Ten per cent of the city’s population has Irish root or links. If they all donate just £1 each that’s around £30,000 which would make up the cut to the service from the council.
“It may only be the community who can help us now to secure the future for our organisation and the many people who are out there struggling who would not survive without our services.”
CIS was set up in 1993 and provides a hugely important service to all generations of people who arrived here from Ireland. It has seven full-time members of staff but is reliant heavily on volunteers who provide a wide range of health and welfare services as well as a variety of cultural and heritage projects, including the visit of Mr Higgins.
“I knew about the visit over five weeks a go so it was difficult to keep it a secret because I wasn’t allowed to say a word,” Mrs Forrest added.
“It went amazingly. Everything just seemed to go to plan. I have personally dreamed of something like this for a long time. You put in what you get out, so now this is the icing on the cake.”
– Turn to pages six for more pictures from the state visit.
Irish President Michael D Higgins waves to the crowds. 16.014.007.cov.jm16