Higgins pledges presidency of transformation in speech


Michael D Higgins became the ninth President of Ireland following a ceremony in Dublin Castle earlier today.

In his address, Mr Higgins promised a “presidency of transformation” and strongly denounced the “egotism” of the boom years, saying a “real Republic” could now be created.

“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.”

Mr Higgins expressed gratitude for the strong mandate he had received in the recent presidential election and singled out for praise the “two great women” who had preceded him in the office, Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson.

He described Irish society as “wounded” and said many people had “broken expectations”. It was now necessary to move past the assumptions which had failed us and build a society that was inclusive. He stressed the importance of “active citizenship”.

Mr Higgins said “original thinking” would be valued during his “presidency of ideas”, during which he hoped the Irish people would “realise our limitless possibilities”.

He said he would visit people who were “excluded” from society, including those in institutional care, and pledge to “champion creative communities”.

The new president said he was inviting all citizens of all ages to make a contribution towards shaping the future, “to be the arrow, not the target”. The first of his promised series of presidential seminars would focus “on being young in Ireland”, he confirmed.

Mr Higgins said the country’s achievements in culture, science and technology had often been insufficiently celebrated.

Mr Higgins said the 1916 leader James Connolly took pride in the past but 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.”

The President said a decade of commemoration lay ahead, providing an opportunity to “celebrate the real Republic which is ours for the making”.

The Irish had been a “diasporic” people throughout history, with many incidences of “involuntary emigration”. He promised to represent “all of the Irish . . . wherever they may be”.

He described the Irish people as “creative, resourceful, talented and warm”.

Speaking before Mr Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the President gave truth to an old Irish saying: "There is no nobility without virtue", adding

Mr Higgins had authenticity as a poet, philosopher, patriot and politician that would resonate across the country and around the world.

The Taoiseach said Mr Higgins was "a real republican" at the head of his "greatly desired real republic". Mr Kenny also predicted Mr Higgins would be a president of transformation and healing, as "he has been the voice of the marginalised through his life".

Shortly before 12.30pm, Chief Justice Mrs Susan Justice Denham read the presidential declaration to Mr Higgins, who repeated and signed it. Mrs Justice Denham then handed over the presidential seal to him.

After Mr Higgins's presidential address, the national anthem was played, and the President inspected a guard of honour outside Dublin Castle. The Air Corps then performed a fly-past.

A fanfare indicated the new president had taken office, and the presidential flag, blue with a gold harp was raised at Dublin Castle and Áras an Uachtaráin. Simultaneously a 21-gun salute at Collins Barracks took place.

Mr Higgins and his wife, Sabina, greeted onlookers and children waiting outside. The couple then left for Áras an Uachtaráin, where the President will host a private lunch for 90 guests, including the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and representatives of all political parties.

Other guests will include family and friends; Mrs McAleese and Mrs Robinson; and political representatives from Northern Ireland.

Mr Higgins and his wife attended a State reception in Dublin Castle from 7pm this evening.

Earlier, Mr Higgins left Farmleigh House, with a 29-personnel Army motorcycle escort, heading for Dublin Castle's State Apartments. He arrived at Dublin Castle shortly before 11.45am.

Shortly afterward, the main ceremonial “dais” party entered St Patrick’s Hall at Dublin Castle. This included Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Government Ministers and the outgoing Council of State. The Council of State was led by Mrs Justice Denham, and included former taoisigh, former president Mary Robinson and outgoing President Mary McAleese.

Mr Higgins, accompanied by the presidential party of Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn and Army officers, joined the dais party at St Patrick’s Hall.

An interfaith service, including Christian, Jewish and Islamic prayers, as well as a humanist reflection, began at noon.

Mr Gilmore said this morning he expected his former party colleague to be a positive president that "the people of Ireland will be proud of".

"He will of course be a president for all the people. I think that is reflected by the huge vote he got in the election," Mr Gilmore said. "He is the first individual in [Irish] history to over one million votes. He assembled the trust of the Irish people and I want to wish him and Sabina and their family all the best for the seven years ahead."