Ireland: A work in progress
That was no bland speech from the newly inaugurated president, Michael D Higgins. His denouncement of what you might call the “boom time establishment” in Dublin Castle was pretty powerful stuff.
He held out the tantalizing prospect of a real Republic, “which is ours for the making”, light years away from the self-destructive selfishness and greed that took a grip of the upper echelons of our society, mostly, in recent times.
“In more recent years we saw the rise of a different kind of individualism – closer to an egotism based on purely material considerations – that tended to value the worth of a person in terms of the accumulation of wealth rather than their fundamental dignity,” he said.
“That was our loss; the source in part of our present difficulties. Now it is time to turn to an older wisdom.” During the campaign, Mr Higgins said he hoped the contest would contribute to burying ageism for good. The first of his promised series of presidential seminars will focus “on being young in Ireland”.
Like Taoiseach Enda Kenny who spoke before him, Mr Higgins noted that a decade of commemoration lies ahead. Mr Kenny mentioned “the Lock-Out, the Easter Rising, the First World War, the Battle of the Somme”. Before the ceremony, Mr Higgins paused for reflection in the Connolly Room, where the 1916 leader James Connolly was held before execution.
Mr Higgins said Connolly took pride in the past, but of course felt those who “excessively worshipped” that past were seeking to escape from “the struggle and challenge” of the present. “He believed that Ireland was a work in progress; a country still to be fully imagined and invented.”
A “presidency of transformation” is on the way, Mr Higgins has promised, and he did not neglect to pay tribute to the “two great women” who had preceded him, Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson.