Ian Coulter, President of Rotary Kilkenny
Rotary International is an international service organisation that aims to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. No small task!
Founded by Paul Harris in Chicago in 1905, the first club to be formed outside of the US was in Dublin in 1911. Rotary is one of the largest voluntary organisations in the world and the Rotary Club of Kilkenny, founded in 1979, has become the largest Rotary Club in Ireland with almost 60 members.
The custom in Kilkenny Rotary is that we have met every almost Monday in the Club House Hotel for lunch.
Sometimes we have a guest speaker but more often it is there, over the table, that members talk about everything and anything; it is here that ideas are formulated, projects are developed and tasks delegated.
Over the years we have been involved in many local, national and international projects, from the purchase of specialised equipment for the Mother of Fair Love School to the Irish Aid for Lebanon to the School Bikes for Africa Project. This last project has now been adopted in 11 counties and the national launch was held in the Kilkenny Civic Amenity on September 7, 2020.
Each Club elects its President every year and I followed Jason Dempsey as President in July.
I had such high hopes for my year as President: we would expand our Youth section, establish another Interact Club to join the Loreto Secondary School, develop our Youth Leadership Awards and - above all – have a successful Remembrance Tree Collection in aid of the Carlow Kilkenny Home Care Team.
This has been our signature project since 2005 and over that time Rotary members and their friends have collected almost a quarter of a million euro for the valuable work being done by the Home Care Team, while enabling people to remember their loved ones.
But of course everything changed – and we, like so many others, have had to adapt.
I once shared a television interview with, of all people, Gerry Adams. It was a TV programme on how 21st Century people adapted the 10 commandments.
I was asked, if I was writing the 10 commandments today, what would be my contribution. Only one commandment begins with ‘Thou Shalt’ – all the others begin with “Thou shalt not…” So I came up with “Thou shalt not lose hope”.
Continue to Hope
And so, we continue to hope – and also to act. We couldn’t meet in person, so we have been inviting guests to join us on Mondays for a Zoom talk on their role – our first guest was newly appointed Minister of State, Malcolm Noonan TD and we have had local heroes such as Gerry Cody, Nickey Brennan, Tomm Moore and Colin Ahern and national heroes such as Professor James McInerney. Those who can’t join these lunchtime chats can watch a recording which is sent to them later that day.
Our Interact Club in Loreto Kilkenny raised money and secured iPads for the School of the Holy Spirit for its pupils who were particularly affected by being unable to attend school.
We have replaced our street collection for the Remembrance Tree Project with an online platform – this is more challenging as it requires some effort by those who wish to contribute – but people have been very generous, showing just how much the work of the Home Care Team is appreciated.
The site is still open at idonate.ie/Remembrance
We hold a Remembrance Service every year at the Christmas Tree on the Parade in the company of the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland Bishops of Ossory.
This year’s service was not publicised, but still went ahead — a sign, perhaps, of the determination and resilience of the people of Kilkenny and of the Rotary Club of Kilkenny.
Hope springs eternal – and with the arrival of a vaccine to immunise us against Covid-19, we have real grounds for hope and for a year in which we in Rotary will continue to put ‘Service above Self’.