President recognises ‘vital’ contribution of artists on Bloomsday

Higgins underlines ‘fundamental role’ of the arts as he honours James Joyce’s Ulysses

President Michael D Higgins. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

President Michael D Higgins. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times


President Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to the “vital” contribution of artists and cultural workers in a speech marking Bloomsday, an annual celebration of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses.

Bloomsday marks the single day in which Joyce’s Ulysses is set: June 16th, 1904.

For the second year, the events will be held virtually, and Mr Higgins took an opportunity to note the “fundamental role of the arts in our lives”.

“As we mark and honour the pioneering work of literature that was Ulysses, let us do so by resolving to seize a golden opportunity to commit to supporting our artistic community,” he said.

The “great and groundbreaking” novel Ulysses changed the path of 20th century literature, said Mr Higgins. However, the offering of artists, he said, has “not always been given the recognition for its vital contribution to our lives”.

Mr Higgins commended the artistic community for fighting back “courageously” against adversity and for finding inventive ways to ensure cultural engagement remained.

“In doing so they have demonstrated the generous breadth of the cultural space and the rich capacity of the arts to unite us in the most challenging of circumstances,” he said.

The President noted that Covid-19 restrictions threw a harsh spotlight on the “precarious and uncertain circumstances” many artists find themselves in, where they are “devoid of the dignity, financial security or freedom from fear that is the right of all citizens”.

Emerging from the pandemic, artists must be assured of the public’s respect. Mr Higgins said it is his hope that the arts will be accommodated and valued in a post-pandemic world.

Meanwhile, a 36-foot mural of James Joyce has been unveiled in downtown Buffalo, New York. The University of Buffalo Libraries is home to the world’s largest James Joyce collection.

Consul General of Ireland in New York, Ciarán Madden, said the Joyce collection at the university is “distinct and special”.

“The links between Ireland and Buffalo, and Western New York more generally, are deep and longstanding; we will always celebrate them,” he added.