President Michael D Higgins recalled a key principle of the Democratic Programme of the first Dáil of January 1919, in his inaugural address for his second term at Dublin Castle this evening.
He described the programme as an "honourable, wide and inclusive version of republicanism", and quoted from it: "It shall be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training, as citizens of a free and Gaelic Ireland. "
You can read the full text of his speech here.
Mr Higgins said: “Let us approach the next seven years with energy and enthusiasm, bringing ár lán dhícheall [our full diligence] to our work of building together what may come to be seen as a real and beautiful Republic of inclusivity, creativity, imagination, love, and indeed joy, a joy that is shared, for that too is part of what it is to truly participate.”
He said that during the presidential election campaign he offered a vision for the next seven years “of a real republic as being 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”.
It was “a vision for which you have given a huge mandate”, he said. Key to enacting it was “the achievement of a real participation, built on equality and empowerment”, he said.
He said inequalities were “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”.
“Our choice must be to actively extend and deepen democracy, to express it in wider forms and in new ways,” he said.
“Ideas matter and history tells us that anti-intellectualism has been, and remains, the weapon of authoritarian and anti-democratic forces in so many parts of our shared, vulnerable planet,” he said.
He noted that not alone was “the very existence of our planet in its biodiversity threatened, but we have not yet slowed the pace of that destruction”.
“We live with ongoing violence against women which must be ended,” he said.
“We must confront and challenge any excuses offered for the denial of the irreducible rights of women, who make up, let us not forget, a majority of humanity on this planet.
“It is important that we recognise the rights and culture of indigenous peoples. It is also important that each person is free to express their sexuality, gender or relationship.”
Referring to “the two great expressions of shared concern that the UN Paris Agreement on responding to climate change and the UN’s . . . agreement on sustainable development represent”, he noted that “we now live with the reality that some of those nations who made those commitments are resiling from them. The issues of inter-generational justice raised by this cannot be ignored.”
Assumption of responsibilities in these matters was “one important part of the shared project of delivery of a real Republic. A real Republic requires a wide embrace, inclusive of all its members, in our case, all of our Irish from different generations including those who are abroad, and it must be generous in its reach.”
Referring to Armistice Day centenary commemorations, which also took place on Sunday, he said that “it was important, earlier on this special day, to privilege the duty of respectful memory”.
A challenge “we in Ireland will face in the next seven years will be our public, formal and scholarly remembering of important change-making, change-inducing events which, while shared, were experienced differently, and are subject to competing constructions in the present”.
He warned that “above all, we must not reopen wounds, but yet we must get sufficiently close to acknowledge those scars that tell us of the depth of hurt experienced and the fragility of the healing achieved.
“Any false amnesia obscures rather than assists. However, choice of distance will be an important act of judgment, one that will decide what is an act of healing, [and] what might constitute a needless provocation.”
Relationship with the UK
One of Ireland’s “ deepest and most complex relationships is that with our closest neighbour”, he said, referring to the UK. This “will remain true, whatever political changes the near future might bring, and the presidency can continue to play a crucial role in sustaining positive relationships between our peoples in challenging circumstances”, he said.
There must not be an “emphasis on division and domination rather than reflection or understanding”, he said. If unchecked, the former could “undermine the warmth of our Irishness and stifle those decencies of the heart that have enhanced our lives, filled our imagination, and contributed so much to our reputation and experience”.
It was important “that we seek to reach always for the best of ourselves, and the best of what we might become, and that we allow that to guide our collective ambition for our country”.
He concluded: “This is your presidency and I will work for you and with you towards a future of equality, participation, inclusion, imagination, creativity, and sustainability. It is together that we go forward.”