President promises to build a ‘Republic of joy’ at inauguration

Michael D Higgins sends warning of ‘deepening inequalities’ as he begins second term

President Michael D. Higgins has been re-elected for a second term, but from Brexit to Trump, he faces a challenging seven years. Irish Times Political Editor Pat Leahy reports. Video: Enda O'Dowd

Dedicating himself to the building of "a real and beautiful Republic of inclusivity, creativity, imagination, love and indeed joy", Michael D Higgins was inaugurated as President of Ireland for his second term at Dublin Castle on Sunday night.

Referencing his campaign theme of “a real republic”, President Higgins said the people of Ireland had given “a huge mandate” to his vision in a speech that dwelled on international as much as national subjects.

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Although Mr Higgins’s speech concluded on an optimistic note, he also sent a message to the assembled political leaders, warning that “inequalities are deepening and many of our people do not have the necessary securities of adequate housing, shelter, health, education, such securities and supports which would allow them to realise their rights and participate with equality”.

All the defeated candidates attended the Dublin Castle ceremony

The President made and then signed the Declaration of Office at the invitation of the Chief Justice, Frank Clarke, in a ceremony in St Patrick's Hall in Dublin Castle attended by members of the Government, the Oireachtas, the judiciary, the Council of State, senior civil servants, religious leaders, the diplomatic corps and invited guests.

President Michael D Higgins inspects the Guard after his inauguration at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins


After the conclusion of the inauguration ceremony, the President was greeted by schoolchildren, and then inspected a Guard of Honour. He then left for Áras an Uachtaráin before returning in a ceremonial procession for a reception in the State Apartments at the Castle on Sunday night.

President Michael D Higgins, accompanied by his wife Sabina, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney and members of the Defence Forces at Dublin Castle after being inaugurated as president for a second term. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mr Higgins’s inauguration came three weeks after his overwhelming victory in the presidential election, which he won on the first count with 56 per cent of the vote. All the defeated candidates attended the Dublin Castle ceremony.

In a speech that skirted broad political themes, Mr Higgins described a “real republic” as “a life lived together, one where there is a commitment to equality, to strong, sustainable communities, to the sharing of history and to shaping of the future together; recognising our vulnerabilities, drawing on and enhancing our individual and collective capacities.”

‘Rigorous commitment’

He said achieving this goal required a “rigorous commitment to removing the many barriers to participation; recognising, strengthening and supporting the momentum and demand for equality, positive transformation and sustainability.”

Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina are greeted by Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mr Higgins warned about climate change and global inequality, but said “the good news” was that “a rising generation” of Irish people was interesting in tackling them.

He said there were “decencies lodged in the heart of our Irishness” but, after an election campaign which featured criticism of Travellers, Mr Higgins warned against “influences that may be dismissive of any responsibility towards the needs, opinions or experiences of others”.

In perhaps the most proscriptive part of his speech, Mr Higgins said: “These are tendencies we must not allow to take root.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times