President urges society in which 'spirit' can flourish


HOLIDAY MESSAGE:A SOCIETY “scarred by great divisions of power and wealth is not a society in which the human spirit can flourish,” President Michael D Higgins has said in a St Patrick’s Day speech.

“Where there are those who believe that inequality is inevitable, or even beneficial, there is now concrete evidence to the contrary,” he said at a reception in Áras an Uachtaráin.

“Almost everything – from life expectancy, to levels of mental illness, illiteracy and violence in the community – is affected not by how wealthy a society is, but how equal it is,” he said.

“A more equal society is a healthier society judged by almost every indicator. Another great moral and intellectual challenge lies in the inclination towards cynicism, fatalism, and lack of imagination that has been one of the sad legacies of our economic boom and subsequent downturn,” the President added.

We needed to “recall and cherish that which makes us truly human: our consciousness, our capacity to question, to critique and shape the world in which we live and raise future generations”.

We needed “to rebuild a sense of trust and community so that we can build a new economy predicated on a shared common good, rather than . . . for individual aggrandisement,” he said.

Referring to an Irish Times poll published on Saturday, which found that a majority of emigrants who were surveyed had left voluntarily, he told the Marian Finucane Show: “There are many people who have gone abroad and come back, including myself. People will come and go.” What was important, he said, was that “we keep our connection with the Irish family wherever they may be”.