A FINE START TO THE PROCEEDINGS – ‘CEAD MILE FAILTE’ "
The large hall of the INEC (Irish National Events Centre) just next to the Gleneagle Hotel, where the conference was based, was the setting for the Annual Conference’s opening ceremony. It was the moment everyone had been eagerly awaiting.
On Wednesday November 8th at 10.00 am the ceremony got under way, compeered by Mary Kennedy, an Irish television personality who is fluent in both English and French. In a few words of warm welcome she summed up the true spirit of the hospitality of Ireland which was so pleased to welcome 658 delegates, 269 of them students from 139 schools in 33 countries. She then proceeded to call each delegation onto the platform, preceded by its national flag:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, Serbia-Montenegro, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
It was a fine parade, joyful and colourful, the largest delegation being the Italians followed by the Dutch. All were loudly applauded as they went up on stage, where the flags were lined up side by side. And finally the student delegations took their seats in the reserved section of the hall, in front of the teachers and directors. Another excellent idea!
In accordance with another tradition Mrs Sheila Casey, the Mayor of Killarney addressed the assembled delegates first in Gaelic then in English (the French translation was projected onto a screen), telling them of her pleasure at hosting this European event in her town – a unique opportunity to promote Killarney. Sheila Casey did not miss this chance to emphasise the natural and cultural assets of the region, explaining that the town has 14,000 inhabitants while playing host to a million tourists each year. She finished by wishing the delegates an excellent conference and an equally excellent stay in the town.
Alfonso Benvenuto, AEHT president took obvious pleasure in greeting not only the VIPs but also all the delegates. He thanked the whole Fįilte Ireland team and the Institutes of Technology for their hard work and gave thanks to the Mayor for her welcome. Turning his attention to the students, he wished them well during their stay, ‘because this Annual Conference is an important event in your lives’; he also wished them success in the competitions during this unique opportunity to build a Europe of friendship and respect for one another. And amid the applause he declared this 19th Annual Conference open.
Aidan Pender, the director of the training arm of Fįilte Ireland, explained to his audience the broad outlines of this Irish tourism body which was one of the factors in the development of the whole of Ireland through tourism.
He emphasised the importance of the competitions and that of the sustainable development of tourism not only in Ireland but also in every country; and he ended by congratulating the AEHT for its commitment in encouraging the European spirit.
Finally Kevin Moriarty, the man in charge of professional development within Fįilte Ireland and one of the main organisers of the Annual Conference, went through the programme event by event, and finished by wishing all the competitors good luck.
And to close the official proceedings, the organisers invited onto the stage the dancers of the Irish National Theatre who had come along to present some of their works. There were wild dances to the rhythm of tap-dancing shoes; Irish music of course; and magnificent singing and choruses. In short, a display that was wildly applauded, a fabulous panorama of the cultural treasures of this lovable country.
In her concluding remarks Mary Kennedy urged everyone ‘not to miss the chance to communicate, to network and to make new friends.’ And the icing on the cake came when the AEHT flag descended from the flies to greet this Annual Conference. The only cloud on the horizon was the absence of a few bars of the European anthem.