President Michael D Higgins has called on Irish people to "embark on a new journey" which is no longer consumed by consumption or arrogance but focuses on a "respect for Mother Earth" and awareness of our "shared vulnerability" as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.
In his annual speech to mark St Patrick’s Day, Mr Higgins acknowledged the “destructive and debilitating, all-enveloping fog that is the pandemic” but urged people to learn from the mistakes of the past and ensure scientific insights and vaccines are shared rather than hoarded “as a commodity for use in aggressive trade competition”.
While there is a capacity for joy in the exit from Covid-19, this joy should be informed by a reflection on the new values we’ve learned during the health crisis, said the president. In moving beyond the challenges of the pandemic, people should also move away from the “hubris, the arrogance, the vanities of assuming the right to dominate, to impose, to exclude; strategies of life which have left us such a legacy of lost communality and a planet in danger”.
“We have had the opportunity, since last year in particular, then, to examine the assumptions that have brought upon us less than the best of ourselves. There is much to be discarded, and we should do so without unnecessary recrimination.
“Surely we do not need to make war to find peace; and then when we discover a remedy, an insight of science for the avoidance or cure of disease, it must be for the sharing, rather than the hoarding as a commodity for use in aggressive trade competition.”
St Patrick’s Day should remind us of “our shared vulnerability, our interdependence, the need for an understanding that can fly past borders”.
In a reference to the rapid spread of disinformation during the global pandemic, Mr Higgins also warned that “trust in words is fading”. He said: “This trust must be restored.”
He paid tribute to the many people separated from loved ones who must rely on technology for contact - “an insufficient substitute for touch or intimacy”.
The President also reflected on the importance of St Patrick's Day for the millions of Irish migrants scattered across the globe. He noted that in 1901, of all the Irish born on the island of Ireland, a majority lived outside the country. "Saint Patrick's Day, then, must always be a special day for recalling our migrant history and learning from it, be a source of our ethics and of our policy at home and abroad."
The global voices of Irish people on St Patrick’s Day stand alongside the invocations and prayers of migrant communities everywhere, he said. St Patrick himself was a migrant “carrying to us the message of another compassionate migrant which could be placed, with respect, alongside other sources of the spirit”.
The President underlined the important role music and creativity had played during the pandemic and expressed hope that in the future, when we reflect on this St Patrick’s day, “let us have returned with even more energy to music as we lift the glass slowly, and replenish it even slower”.
St Patrick’s Day 2021 should be the “beginning of a new journey, one we ware happy to share with the whole world and all of its people, and one that helped renew a respect for Mother Earth to which we all belong, and of which our Saints Patrick and Brigid left us such insights and enduring wisdom,” he said.