Crisis has evoked sense of solidarity in Ireland - Higgins

Irish seeking constructive approaches to moving beyond slump, president tells students in Mexico

President Michael D Higgins shakes hands with  Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto during a welcoming ceremony at the National Palace in Mexico City earlier this week. Photograph: Edgard Garrido/Reuters

President Michael D Higgins shakes hands with Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto during a welcoming ceremony at the National Palace in Mexico City earlier this week. Photograph: Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 19:05

President Michael D Higgins has told an audience in Mexico that the economic crisis had “evoked a new sense of solidarity and community” in Ireland.

In a speech at Mexico’s ministry of foreign affairs to a group of students, Mr Higgins said the Irish people were seeking new ways to “move forward together and find constructive sustainable approaches to move beyond the crisis that has so affected the global economy since 2008”.

The President is on the fourth day of 12-day tour of Latin America and his final day in Mexico before he travels on to El Salvador later tonight and Costa Rica on Saturday.

Mr Higgins will visit the mayor of Mexico City today before his departure to El Salvador today.

Speaking about Ireland’s economic recovery, the President said the country was trying to repair the economy by moving away from the excesses of the property speculation to a more sustainable model.

“In Ireland, we have experienced acute economic difficulties in very recent times and our people have been asked to make great sacrifices to enable our economic recovery and a return to sustainable growth,” he said.

“That recovery is now at last in sight, a true recovery based, not on speculation, but on the real economy of work, production and value, on our commitment to working together to overcome our problems, and on the creativity, innovation and talents which are our young country’s best strengths.”

Mr Higgins referred to the similarities between Ireland and Mexico and how both countries have shared the history and legacy of “living in the shadow of a powerful neighbour”.

“In the case of both Ireland and Mexico, the historical relationship with our more powerful neighbour was often, and understandably, the cause of tension and conflict,” he said.

“Happily, in more recent years, those critical relationships have been placed on a more constructive and mutually respectful footing.”

Mr Higgins praised the new economic thinking emerging from Latin America that are deconstructing the “big dogmas” that led to the most serious economic meltdown since 1929.

“Some of the freshest and most creative thinking is coming from Latin America, where economists, political and social scientists are not afraid to question prevailing orthodoxies,” he said.

They are debating “alternative models and paradigms for the connection between economy and society and for the relationship between the market and the state,” he said.

“There is an intellectual fall-down often missing in those parts of the world where antipathy to the role of the state has offered unregulated markets as an ideology to be followed without question while the consequences in poverty and unemployment ravage their societies.”

Mr Higgins urged the students from the University of Mexico, the biggest in Latin America, not to “sink into any melancholy” when considering their future.

In response to a question from a student about Northern Ireland after his speech, the President said that the peace could not have been achieved “on our own” but that it had “sustained itself.”

“We have been able to put a peace process together but it needs regular attention,” he said.