Michael D. Higgins: Inauguration Speech

Michael D. Higgins was inaugurated as the ninth President of Ireland on November 11, 2011. The transcript is from the Irish Times.com website.

Michael D Higgins: Muintir na hÉireann and friends of Ireland at home and abroad, there can be no greater honour than to have been elected Uachtarán na hÉireann – President of Ireland. I thank you the people of Ireland for the honour you have bestowed upon me and I accept and appreciate the great responsibilities of that office.

Citizens of Ireland, you have chosen me to be your ninth President, to represent you at home and abroad, and to serve as a symbol of an Irishness of which we can all be proud.

An Irishness which is carried by every citizen and which we must recall and forge anew together.

I enter the ninth Presidency with a sense of humility, but also with confidence in the great capacity of our people, the people of Ireland, not only to transcend present difficulties but to realise all of the wonderful possibilities that I believe await us in the years ahead.

I wish to acknowledge the immense contribution of those who have previously served in this office, particularly the two great women who have immediately preceded me.

They have made contributions that developed our consciousness of human rights, inclusion, and the important task of deepening and sustaining peace within and between communities in every part of our Island. It is work I will endeavour to continue and build upon.

As your President, I am grateful for the extent of the support, the strong mandate, you have given me. I also realise the challenges that I face, that we face together, in closing a chapter that has left us fragile as an economy, but most of all wounded as a society, with unacceptable levels of unemployment, mortgage insecurity, collapsing property values and many broken expectations. During my campaign for the Presidency, I encountered that pain particularly among the most vulnerable of our people.

However, I also recognise the will of all of our people to move beyond anger, frustration or cynicism and to draw on our shared strengths. To close the chapter on that which has failed, that which was not the best version of ourselves as a people, and open a new chapter based on a different version of our Irishness – will require a transition in our political thinking, in our view of the public world, in our institutions, and, most difficult of all, in our consciousness.

In making that transformation, it is necessary to move past the assumptions which have failed us and to work together for such a different set of values as will enable us to build a sustainable social economy and a society which is profoundly ethical and inclusive. A society and a state which will restore trust and confidence at home and act as a worthy symbol of Irishness abroad, inviting relationships of respect and co-operation across the world.

We must seek to build together an active, inclusive citizenship; based on participation, equality, respect for all and the flowering of creativity in all its forms. A confident people is our hope, a people at ease with itself, a people that grasps the deep meaning of the proverb ‘ní neart go cur le chéile’ – our strength lies in our common weal – our social solidarity.

Sin iad mór-théamaí na hUachtaránachta atá curtha romham agam, agus mé lán-dóchasach go bhfuilimid ar tháirseach ré nua d’Éirinn agus d’Éireannaigh, sa bhaile agus i gcéin. Ré nua ina mbeidh bunluacha na cothroime agus an chirt, agus spiorad na cruthaíochta, faoi bhláth: poblacht, a mbeidh Éireannaigh de gach aicme agus traidisiún bródúil aisti.

My Presidency will be a Presidency of transformation, recognising and building on the many positive initiatives already under way in communities, in the economy, and in individual and collective efforts throughout our land. It will be a Presidency that celebrates all of our possibilities. It will seek to be of assistance and encouragement to investment and job creation, to innovation and original thinking – a Presidency of ideas – recognising and open to new paradigms of thought and action. It will aspire to turn the best of ideas into living realities for all of our people, realising our limitless possibilities – ár feidireachtaí gan teorainn.

In implementing the mandate you have given me, I will seek to achieve an inclusive citizenship where every citizen participates and everyone is treated with respect. I will highlight and support initiatives for inclusion across Ireland and also make it a priority to visit and to support the participation of the most excluded in our society, including those in institutional care.

I will champion creative communities who are bringing about positive change at local level by giving recognition to their achievements on the national stage. I believe that when we encourage the seedbed of creativity in our communities and ensure that each child and adult has the opportunity for creative expression, we also lay the groundwork for sustainable employment in creative industries and enrich our social, cultural and economic development.

In promoting inclusion and creativity, I will be inviting all citizens, of all ages, to make their own imaginative and practical contribution to the shaping of our shared future.

Active citizenship requires the will and the opportunity to participate at every level and in every way – to be the arrow; not the target.

Next year Bunreacht na hÉireann is 75 years old and a Constitutional Convention is planned by Government. As President, I encourage all citizens, of all ages, at home and abroad to take the opportunity of engaging with this important review as an opportunity to reflect on where we have come from and on how we might see ourselves into the future.

During my Presidency, I also intend to hold a number of Presidency Seminars which may reflect and explore themes important to our shared life yet separate and wider than legislative demand, themes such as the restoration of trust in our institutions, the ethical connection between our economy and society, the future of a Europe built on peace, social solidarity and sustainability.

The first of these seminars will focus on being young in Ireland. It will address issues of participation, education, employment, emigration and mental health. I hope also that the seminars during the next seven years might encompass consideration of global issues, stressing the importance of the ethical connection between politics, economy, development and society.

In preparing for my Presidency, I recognise that our long struggle for freedom has produced a people who believe in the right of the individual mind to see the world in its own way and indeed that individual innovation and independence of mind has given Ireland many distinguished contributors in culture and science, often insufficiently celebrated.

However, in more recent years, we saw the rise of a different kind of individualism – closer to an egotism based on purely material considerations – that tended to value the worth of a person in terms of the accumulation of wealth rather then their fundamental dignity. That was our loss, the source in part, of our present difficulties. Now it is time to turn to an older wisdom that, while respecting material comfort and security as a basic right of all, also recognises that many of the most valuable things in life cannot be measured.

Our successes after all in the eyes of so many in the world have been in the cultural and spiritual areas – in our humanitarian, peace-building and human rights work – in our literature, art, drama and song – and in how that drama and song have helped us cope with adversity, soothed the very pain which they describe so well, and opened the space for new possibilities.

Our arts celebrate the people talking, singing, dancing and ultimately communing with each other. This is what James Connolly meant when he said that: “Ireland without her people means nothing to me”. Connolly took pride in the past but, of course, felt that those who excessively worshipped that past were sometimes seeking to escape from the struggle and challenge of the present. He believed that Ireland was a work in progress, a country still to be fully imagined and invented – and that the future was exhilarating precisely in the sense that it was not fully knowable, measurable.

The demands and the rewards of building a real and inclusive Republic in its fullest sense remains as a challenge for us all, but it is one we should embrace together.

A decade of commemorations lies ahead – a decade that will require us to honestly explore and reflect on key episodes in our modern history as a nation; that will require us to draw on the ethics and politics of memory in such a way as will enable us not only to be sensitive to differing and incomplete versions of that history, but also to remain open to the making of reconciliation or to the acceptance of different versions of aspects and events of memory if required.

A common shared future built on the spirit of co-operation, the collective will and real participation in every aspect of the public world is achievable and I believe we can achieve it together. In our rich heritage some of our richest moments have been those that turned towards the future and a sense of what might be possible. It is that which brought us to independence. It is that which has enabled us to overcome adversity and it is that which will enable us to transcend our present difficulties and celebrate the real Republic which is ours for the making.

Every age, after all, must have its own Aisling and dream of a better, kinder, happier, shared world.

Ní díomas ach dóchas a bheidh ag teastáil uainn ins na blianta dúshlánacha atá amach romhainn. Dóchas as ár n-oighreacht shaibhir, as ár ndúchas iolrach; dóchas as ár n-acmhainn samhlaíochta agus cruthaíochta; as an daonnacht choiteann a fáisceadh as stair chasta ár muintire i ngach cúinne d’Éirinn.

It is my wish to be a President for all of the Irish at home and abroad. We Irish have been a diasporic people for a great part of our history. The circumstances that have impelled – and that continue to impel – many citizens to seek employment and a better life elsewhere, are not ordained by some mysterious hand of fate. They challenge our capacity to create a sustainable and prosperous economy and an inspiring model of the good society. We, in our time, must address the real circumstances that generate involuntary emigration, and resolve that in the years ahead we will strive with all our energy and intellect, with mind and heart to create an Ireland which our young people do not feel they have to leave and to which our emigrants, or their children, may wish, in time,

to return to work and live in dignity and prosperity. I invite all of the Irish, wherever they may be across the world, to become involved with us in that task of remaking our economy and society.

Agus, ár muintir atá lonnaithe i dtíortha ar fuaid an domhain mhóir, bíodh a gcás, a gcearta agus a ngaiscí siúd ar ár n-aire againn. Tá rian a saothair agus a ndíograis fágtha acu ar gach tír inar lonnaigh siad: ar an gcultúr polaitíochta agus creidimh, sna réimsí oideachais agus sláinte, san eolaíocht, san saol gnó agus sna h-ealaíona ar fad: agus i ngluaiseachtaí éagsúla ar son chearta daonna agus dínit an duine. Ní suarach iad na gaiscí seo mar thaisce inspioráide dúinne sa bhaile.

Let these, then, be our shared hopes, our common purpose, as we face the future.

We Irish are a creative, resourceful, talented and warm people, with a firm sense of common decency and justice. Let us address the next seven years with hope and courage as we work together to build the future for our country –an Ireland we all feel part of, an Ireland we all feel proud of.

Muintir na hÉireann, ar aghaidh linn le chéile leis an dóchas agus an misneach sin a bhí is ba choir a bheith i gcónaí in ár gcroí.

Enda Kenny: Response to Cloyne Report, 2011

The Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, made this strongly-worded speech to the Irish parliament in 2011 following a report regarding child abuse in Ireland. In words rarely heard from Irish politicians, he criticized Catholic church authorities on their lack of action and sometimes deliberate actions in response to allegations made by sufferers of abuse.

The transcript is from the Bishop-Accountability.org website.


Enda Kenny: The revelations of the Cloyne report have brought the Government, Irish Catholics and the Vatican to an unprecedented juncture.

It’s fair to say that after the Ryan and the Murphy Reports Ireland is, perhaps, unshockable when it comes to the abuse of children.

But Cloyne has proved to be of a different order.

Because for the first time in this country, a report into child sexual-abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic…as little as three years ago, not three decades ago.

And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism …….that dominate the culture of the Vatican today.

The rape and the torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, its standing and its ‘reputation’.

Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St Benedict’s “ear of the heart”…the Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer

This calculated, withering position being the polar opposite of the radicalism, the humility and the compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded.

The radicalism, the humility and the compassion which are the very essence of its foundation and its purpose.

The behaviour being a case of Roma locuta est: causa finita est.

Except in this instance, Ceann Comhairle, nothing could be further from the truth.

Cloyne’s revelations are heart-breaking. It describes how many victims continued to live in the small towns and parishes in which they were reared and in which they were abused… Their abuser often still in the area and still held in high regard by their families and their community. The abusers continued to officiate at family weddings and funerals… In one case, the abuser even officiated at the victim’s own wedding…

There is little that I or anyone else in this House can say to comfort that victim or others, however much we want to. But we can and do recognise the bravery and the courage of all of the victims who told their stories to the Commission.

While it will take a long time for Cloyne to recover from the horrors uncovered, it could take the victims and their families a lifetime to pick up the pieces of their shattered existence, if ever they do.

A day post-publication of the report, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade met with the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza.

The Tánaiste left the Archbishop clear on two things:
The gravity of the actions and the attitude of the Holy See.

And Ireland’s complete rejection and abhorrence of same.
The Papal Nuncio undertook to present the Cloyne Report to the Vatican.

The Government now awaits the considered response of the Holy See.

I believe that the Irish people, including the very many faithful Catholics who – like me – have been shocked and dismayed by the repeated failings of Church authorities to face up to what is required, what is deserved, and they require confirmation from the Vatican that they do accept, endorse and require compliance by all Church authorities here with the obligations to report all cases of suspected abuse, whether current or historical, to the State’s authorities in line with the Childrens First National Guidance which will have the force of law.

Clericalism has rendered some of Ireland’s brightest, and most privileged and powerful men, either unwilling or unable to address the horrors cited in the Ryan and the Murphy Reports.
This Roman Clericalism must be devastating for good priests…. some of them old… others struggling to keep their humanity….even their sanity……..as they work hard…..to be the keepers of the Church’s light and goodness within their parishes…… within their communities… and as a condition of the human heart.

Thankfully for them, and for us, this is not Rome.
Nor is it industrial-school or Magdalene Ireland, where the swish of a soutane smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish-Catholic world.
This is the ‘Republic’ of Ireland 2011.

A Republic of laws…..of rights and responsibilities….of proper civic order….. where the delinquency and the arrogance of a particular version….. of a particular kind of ‘morality’….. will no longer be tolerated or ignored.

As a practising Catholic, I don’t say any of this easily.
Growing up, many of us in here learned that we were part of a pilgrim Church.

Today, that Church needs to be a penitent Church.
A church, truly and deeply penitent for the horrors it perpetrated, that it hid and that it denied.

In the name of God. But for the good of the institution.

When I say that through our legislation….. through our Government’s action to put Children First…….those who have been abused might take some small comfort in knowing that they belong to a nation…..to a democracy……where….humanity……power…rights…… and responsibilities….. are enshrined and enacted …..always….always…. for their good.

Where the law – their law – as citizens of this country, will always supercede canon law that have neither legitimacy nor place in the affairs of this country.

This report tells us a tale of a frankly brazen disregard for protecting children. If we do not respond swiftly and appropriately as a State, we will have to prepare ourselves for more reports like this.

I agree with Bishop Diarmuid Martin that the Church needs to publish any other and all other reports like this as soon as possible.

I must note the Commission is very positive about the work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children, established by the Church to oversee the operation by Dioceses and religious orders. The Commission notes that all Church authorities were required to sign a contract with the National Board agreeing to implement the relevant standards and that those refusing to sign would be named in the Board’s Annual Report. Progress has been in no small measure to the commitment of Mr Ian Elliott and others.

There is some small comfort to be drawn by the people of Cloyne from the fact that the Commission is complimentary of the efforts made by the Diocese since 2008, in training, in vetting personnel and in the risk management of Priests against whom allegations have been made. Nevertheless, the behaviour of Bishop Magee and Monsignor O’Callaghan show how fragile even good standards and policies are to the weakness and the willful disregard of those who fail to give the right priority to safeguarding our children.

If the Vatican needs to get its house in order, so too does the State.

The Report of the Commission is rightly critical of the entirely unsatisfactory position in which the last Government allowed to persist over many years. The unseemly bickering between the Minister for Children and the HSE over the statutory powers to deal with extra-familial abuse, the failure to produce legislation to enable the exchange of soft information as promised after the Ferns Enquiry, and the long period of confusion and disjointed responsibility for child protection within the HSE, as reported by the Commission, are simply not acceptable to me nor in a society which values children and their safety.

For too long Ireland has neglected some of its children.

Just last week we saw a case of the torture of children, within the family, come before the courts. Just two days ago, we were repulsed by the case of a Donegal registered sex offender…and school caretaker…

Children and young adults reduced, Ceann Comhairle, to human wreckage.
Raising questions and issues of serious import for State agencies.

We are set to embark on a course of action to ensure the State is doing all it can to safeguard our children.

Minister Shatter is bringing forward two pieces of legislation – firstly, to make it an offence to withhold information relating to crimes against children and vulnerable adults; and secondly, at long last, to allow for the exchange of ‘soft information’ on abusers.

As Taoiseach, I want to do all that I can to protect the sacred space of childhood and to restore its innocence.

Especially our young teenagers.
Because regardless of our current economic crisis, the children of this country are, and always will be, our most precious possession of all.

And safeguarding their integrity and their innocence must be a national priority. That is why I undertook to create a Cabinet ministry for Children and Youth Affairs.

The legislation ‘Children First’ proposes to give our children maximum protection and security without intruding on the hectic, magical business of being a child.

Cardinal Josef Ratzinger said
“Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church.”

As the Holy See prepares its considered response to the Cloyne Report, I want to make it clear, as Taoiseach, that when it comes to the protection of the children of this State, the standards of conduct which the Church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic.

Not purely, or simply or otherwise.

Because CHILDREN have to be, and will be, put FIRST.

Michael D Higgins: Acceptance Speech

Michael D Higgins was elected ninth President of Ireland on October 27, 2011. You can view a visualization of the key words from the speech here on the Many Eyes website, based on a transcript by Molonesi.

Watch the Youtube video for the full speech including the introduction in Irish.

I will be a president for all the people and from this moment I will cease to be a member and president of the Labour Party, a party which has informed my thinking and the ethos of my life, a party the centenary of whose founding by James Connolly and James Larkin will be celebrated next year.

For the presidency is an independent office and the Irish people, which I appreciate so much and I take with such responsibility, have given a very clear mandate on a very clear set of ideas to me as the ninth president.

I would like to thank, as I said, sincerely those who voted for me, but also I acknowledge those who voted for the other candidates who during a long and difficult campaign offered many valuable suggestions which I hope to include and encompass over the next seven years.

And I want to be a president too for those who didn’t vote, whose trust in public institutions I will encourage and work to recover. And always in my mind too will be those who have gone away, and I will be their president too.

The oath I will take when I’m inaugurated, ‘Mo lándícheall a dhéanamh ar son leasa is fónaimh mhuintir na hÉireann – I dedicate my abilities to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland’, is a great responsibility.[Irish: “and I accept this challenge fully in these difficult times we are experiencing.”]

The mandate I have received and for which I will seek with heart and head to implement over the next seven years had its four pillars in an inclusive citizenship, which is about equality, participation and respect. In a creative society, creative and excellent in everything we Irish do, making an Irishness to be proud of in a real republic.

This was a vision of a real republic where life and language, where ideals and experience, have the ring of authenticity, which we need now as we go forward.

And during a long campaign, which for me, as I have said, was almost 14 months since I first sought a nomination from the Labour Party, I saw and felt and feel the pain of the Irish people.

I recognise the need for a reflection on those values and assumptions often carelessly taken that have brought us to such a sorry pass in social and economic terms, for which such a high price has been paid and is being paid.

I recognise the righteous anger but I also saw the need for healing and to move past recrimination.

I love our shared island, our shared Ireland, and its core decencies. I love it for its imagination and its celebration of the endless possibilities for our people.

That are there for the achieving as we leave behind a narrow individualism that valued the person for what was assumed to be their accumulated wealth but neglected the connection between the person, the social, the community and the nation.

That is what we all leave behind now, for which a million people gave me a mandate. Now we must respond collectively and co-operatively to what we all must recognise as our shared problems, be it unemployment, mortgage distress or any form of exclusion.

We must now work to our strengths at home and abroad, not only co-operatively and collectively but sustainably for the benefit of all of our present generations and those to come.

The necessary transformation of which I speak and of which my presidency will be a part is built on turning creative possibilities into living realities for all our people, and I believe – this was the wonderful thing about going round the country so often – I believe and recognise that that transformation has already begun.

I saw it in one community after another, be it in those who are creating strategies with and for the unemployed; those working in care, those working in pre-school and after-school class, those great citizens. Everywhere good people have commenced a journey to a version of Irishness of which we can be proud.

And this campaign, we must never forget, involved a choice as to which version of Irishness we would choose for the next seven years, as what we wanted as ourselves at home and abroad. This necessary transformation, which has now begun, will I hope result in making the values of equality, respect and participation in an active citizenship the characteristic of the next seven years. The reconnection of society, economy and ethics is a project we cannot postpone.

I have encountered in this long campaign an enthusiasm for an Irishness that will be built on recognising again those sources from which spring the best of our reason and curiosity.

But even more important is the powerful instinct for decency which must be at the heart of a real republic: the celebration of the power of the collective in pursuit of the best of ourselves.

And based too on the power of culture, science and technology, delivered through the contemporary genius of our people.

Ireland has made its choice for the future and it has chosen the version of Irishness it will be. I know and I will work with head and heart to be part with all of you in creating that future, one in which all of us can be part of and proud too.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh…[Thank you very much]

Queen Elizabeth II: Dublin, 2011

Queen Elizabeth II visited Ireland in May 2011, the British first monarch to do so in a century.

A Uachtarain agus a chairde [President and friends].

Prince Philip and I are delighted to be here, and to experience at first hand Ireland’s world-famous hospitality.

Together we have much to celebrate: the ties between our people, the shared values, and the economic, business and cultural links that make us so much more than just neighbours, that make us firm friends and equal partners.

Madam President, speaking here in Dublin Castle, it is impossible to ignore the weight of history, as it was yesterday when you and I laid wreaths at the Garden of Remembrance.

Indeed, so much of this visit reminds us of the complexity of our history, its many layers and traditions, but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation. Of being able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it.

Of course, the relationship has not always been straightforward; nor has the record over the centuries been entirely benign. It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss.

These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We can never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families. To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.

But it is also true that no-one who looked to the future over the past centuries could have imagined the strength of the bonds that are now in place between the governments and the people of our two nations, the spirit of partnership that we now enjoy, and the lasting rapport between us. No-one here this evening could doubt that heartfelt desire of our two nations.

Madam President, you have done a great deal to promote this understanding and reconciliation. You set out to build bridges. And I have seen at first hand your success in bringing together different communities and traditions on this island.

You have also shed new light on the sacrifice of those who served in the First World War. Even as we jointly opened the Messines Peace Park in 1998, it was difficult to look ahead to the time when you and I would be standing together at Islandbridge as we were today.

That transformation is also evident in the establishment of a successful power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland. A knot of history that was painstakingly loosened by the British and Irish Governments together with the strength, vision and determination of the political parties in Northern Ireland.

What were once only hopes for the future have now come to pass; it is almost exactly 13 years since the overwhelming majority of people in Ireland and Northern Ireland voted in favour of the agreement signed on Good Friday 1998, paving the way for Northern Ireland to become the exciting and inspirational place that it is today.

I applaud the work of all those involved in the peace process, and of all those who support and nurture peace, including members of the police, the gardai, and the other emergency services, and those who work in the communities, the churches and charitable bodies like Co-operation Ireland.

Taken together, their work not only serves as a basis for reconciliation between our people and communities, but it gives hope to other peacemakers across the world that through sustained effort, peace can and will prevail.
For the world moves on quickly. The challenges of the past have been replaced by new economic challenges which will demand the same imagination and courage.

The lessons from the peace process are clear; whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load.

There are other stories written daily across these islands which do not find their voice in solemn pages of history books, or newspaper headlines, but which are at the heart of our shared narrative. Many British families have members who live in this country, as many Irish families have close relatives in the United Kingdom.

These families share the two islands; they have visited each other and have come home to each other over the years. They are the ordinary people who yearned for the peace and understanding we now have between our two nations and between the communities within those two nations; a living testament to how much in common we have.

These ties of family, friendship and affection are our most precious resource. They are the lifeblood of the partnership across these islands, a golden thread that runs through all our joint successes so far, and all we will go on to achieve.

They are a reminder that we have much to do together to build a future for all our grandchildren: the kind of future our grandparents could only dream of.

So we celebrate together the widespread spirit of goodwill and deep mutual understanding that has served to make the relationship more harmonious, close as good neighbours should always be,