Higgins commends ‘self-sacrifice’ shown during pandemic

Continuing compassion and care will define how history recalls coronavirus response, says President in Christmas message

President Michael D. Higgins has praised the generosity and self-sacrifice of the people of Ireland throughout a Covid-hit 2020 during his annual Christmas and new year address. Video: Áras an Uachtaráin


President Michael D Higgins has commended the “great expression of generosity” and self-sacrifice shown during the coronavirus pandemic this year.

In his Christmas message Mr Higgins said the “compassion, care and empathy” extended to vulnerable groups would in particular “define how history will recall these times” and he asked that the nation would continue to move forward in a spirit of solidarity next year.

“What a year we have had, a year in which we have lost so many to this pandemic and during which the lives of so many of our people have been changed utterly as we made our shared efforts to protect each other,” he said.

“In 2020, as we came together to meet the challenge of a global pandemic, we were called on to undertake a demanding adjustment to our way of life, one that has required considerable resilience, self-sacrifice and compassion from us all.”

It was “gratifying”, he said, to see the “great expression of generosity that has been demonstrated throughout this difficult time”.

He highlighted the “self-sacrifice on the part of essential workers, neighbours and family members, all doing their utmost to lessen the isolation and disruption that this year has brought”.

Redoubling the effort to suppress the virus was an act of citizenship, he said.

“When we reflect on our recent experiences this Christmas, this spirit of solidarity can be our guiding light as we proceed onwards towards a new year that will offer us our challenges but which we can approach with hope as a result of what we have been doing together.

“Working together on this project of controlling Covid-19, as it impinges on our lives, requires the best of us all. We need not only to speak the language of citizenship, but to deliver it and to share it, as we encourage each other to have a vision of the light that will surely come if we work as one, renewing and redoubling our efforts to suppress the coronavirus.”

Good citizens

The impact of Covid-19 has been greatly magnified for vulnerable groups and “kindness is a precious commodity” he said.

“May I suggest that the compassion, care and empathy we extend to such groups will define how history will recall these times.”

Throughout the year there had been “so many examples of good citizens” placing the common good above their own wants, making sacrifices as they think beyond the self in the protection of others, he said.

“The Christmas story of a journey to Bethlehem is a founding story of a long and difficult journey, and is invoked as the source of a new dawn and the birth of a new and better world for all. Christmas has always signified a moment of hope, and the revival of hope, a moment to find encouragement, even in the most difficult and trying of circumstances.”

Mr Higgins also reflected on the loss of life and the pain of those whose lives had been changed, and those who had experienced isolation.

‘Hope and solidarity’

“We also remember, this year, in a special way, the many who have been unable to travel to be with loved ones but who, I know, will be connected in spirit during the festive season.”

Ireland could have a brighter future through reflection on what was of value, he said.

“Let us, however, continue to journey forward in a spirit of hope and solidarity. As we stand at a defining moment in our nation’s history, let us choose together how we wish to write this next chapter; how we wish to shape a new Ireland waiting to be born.

“It is an Ireland which can be the better for our reflection on what it is that we wish to value, an Ireland that can better address our shared existence, our shared vulnerability and our interdependence, all of our relationships.”