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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 11, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

    Ireland: A work in progress

    Mary Minihan

    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.

    • Mick says:

      Am I the only person in Ireland who can see that it is all just words? The president has little or no power to change anything, and I have no doubt that we will another 7 years of a professional hand shaker.

    • Kynos says:

      I just watched it online. Only understood about half of it being as I don’t speak Irish but he’s a wonderful man he’ll be a wonderful president and maybe if anyone’s got a chance of helping ye get a proper Irish Republic he will. Now they’re playing Amhrain na bhFiann. I still can’t bring myself to stand for it not anymore not now there’s a big lie in the middle about depots and slaves when the country’s full of them foreign and domestic I HATE despising my former country I HATE thinking She’s a state of gombeens and shleeveens who’d nod and wink at ANY sort of cowardice inhumanity and rapine just cos there’s a buck in it. I hate trusting nothing and nobody outside my blood. I hate seeing everything with a cynical eye trying to peel back the layers of bullshit and see the undoubted scams and strokes that I’ve come to expect in every case beneath. When I was an Irish citizen I was so proud to be one. I believed in all that oul’ mar dhea about the past intrinsically, believed this was a state and nation that refused to accept the values of war however heroic were Her 7000 who went and fought the Devil in British uniform in the black days of 39 to 45. Believed this was a country that at least could always claim never to have done unto others what others had done unto Her for so long. I hate the fact I believe in nothing any more. That I scorn and doubt everything about this place and think it nothing but an Omelas. I’m sure there are Irish citizens who feel the same and hate that they do. I wish you the very best with your new President. He’s a fantastic human being imo. I hope he helps you take back your country from those whom have so dishonoured Her Cause with cowardice inhumanity and rapine. Good luck with that. Sincerely. I truly wish ye the very best.

    • Paul says:

      Am I alone in saying, there is a whiff or moralising about our collective lost values, an elitist (comfortable) phoney anti materialism, and that the “new version of Irishness” is conspicuous in its failure to discuss the value of immigration, its real positive himan experience for many Irish people.
      Its perhaps taboo – but honest – but many people enjoyed their 3 cheap holidays a year on Ryanair, their new kitchens, flat screen Tvs, comforts of technology. pleasures of wealth….without loosing their values, frindships or moral compass. Perhaps it was all built on sand, but that is an entirely different discussion. Greed for some is comfort for others, materialism for some is economic comfort for others…me thinks there is an undercurrent of liberal leftie dislike of the coping working class enjoying the things liberal lefties always enjoyed.

    • mark says:

      A renewed Republic. It’s still a dream of many citizens.

      Check out: http://www.2nd-republic.ie/site/

    • Olive says:

      MDH noted that the recent culture of individualism valued the “worth of a person in terms of the accumulation of wealth rather than their fundamental difficulty” as you have it. I believe I heard the president say fundamental dignity not difficulty. This error is repeated in your article “Higgins pledges presidency of transformation in speech”.

    • James McLaughlin says:

      I loved this day and I think (with other news) I have found a question that I would love to hear debated on evrery day – to show that we are here we are now and we are not for turning…

      What is power in our world now?
      talk of democracy is farce when leaders don’t suit the “unamed power”.
      the question from the micro to the media is: Who has the power?
      If it is the analysis of future – through stock/bonds and the many meriads of analysis methods that these financial structures rely upon to tell us how rish or poor we are(macro)
      Or how poor I am(micro)
      I think we are looking at this from a similar,media perspective to the crisis of polution.
      Who are the poluters?
      We are – Yes.
      But who are the financial polutors?
      Well maybe we are too – from a mico perspective – but we ‘can’ turn this one off at ‘source’.
      Just find the ‘source’ of this financial polutiion and shut it off.

    • Briemma says:

      The right narrative can change everything. Michael D. sounds as though he knows how to create it.

    • Peter Barrins says:

      @1 yes, they’re just words, but they were powerful words, spoken with truth and conviction, and they are words which, if said often enough, people will start to absorb and believe. For too long there has been a lack of any inspirational words spoken on the Irish political scene. Although Michael D is no longer a politician, in the minds of most people he will forever be a politician. As such, whether the political establishment like it or not, his words and what he says will carry weight. I have read a lot of what Michael D has written over the years on social justice, fairness, equity and ethics, and most of it was largely ignored, even within the Labour Party. Now he stands apart as a singular office holder, unencumbered by political restraints. He will either make an impact or, after the initial hype, he will fade into relative obscurity – time will tell, but my money is on the former!

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Meaningless words from a small man who has nothing to offer the youth of Ireland – the youth who will be paying for the mess his generation made, until they too are old.

      How dare he talk about greed – where was the greed? People bought a new car, they got a new kitchen or bathroom and went on holiday and enjoyed meals out. That’s not greed, it’s the same standard of life other countries have taken for granted for decades.

      Where was the choice about the price of houses? Were people offering €500k on a house with an asking price of €250k? No they weren’t, because buyers had no choice but to pay the asking price set by the buyer and why was that, because they needed the money to fund their retirement and help their children or to buy their new house.

      A vicious circle that was caused by a failure of politics, a political establishment of which Mr Higgins is at the heart of.

      So what can he do as President? Nothing. All his speechs have to be approved by the government so he’s not going to be saying the government doesn’t agree with.

      A man who talks about greed who doesn’t think there is anything disgusting about accepting a salary of €275k plus unverified expenses, on top of the obscene pension he has received on top of an Oireachtas salary for years…

      There has to be some example set from the top down and there has been none and Mr Higgins is more of a blast from the past than a bridge to the future.

      The real shame is that he was the best of a bad lot to choose from.

    • jaygee says:

      Every good wish to President Higgins, may he help to realise the dream of Connolly and see a Country which truly belongs to the people and not to the slick operators who have bled her for so long.

    • Mary Minihan says:

      Dear Olive (comment number 5), thanks for pointing that error out. Have amended. Just shows what can happen when you’re rushing – the joys of online journalism! Regards, Mary

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