'We must not return to racism of old' - Irish President Michael D Higgins calls for tolerant debate on Brexit
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'We must not return to racism of old' - Irish President Michael D Higgins calls for tolerant debate on Brexit

THE PRESIDENT of Ireland has called for "informed discourse and respectful debate” following the EU referendum outcome, while addressing parliamentarians in Scotland.

The speech, one of a number made during President Higgins' three day Scottish visit last week, was made in Holyrood on June 29.

In it he acknowledged Britain’s recent vote to leave the EU, stating: “While these votes were explicit expressions of support for one of the two sides, they were also affirmations of the importance citizens attach to the democratic system.

“It takes bravery to challenge consensus, but it also requires courage to commit to governing co-operatively, collaboratively, and with respect,” he added.

“We must respond to demagoguery with an informed, open, respectful, tolerant and engaged discourse, and with respectful debate,” he told Members of Scottish Parliament who gathered for the address.

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News 29062016. No Repro Fee. Pictured is President Michael D Higgins with Ken Macintosh MSP, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliment at the Scottish Parliament during the Presidents Address on the 3rd day of the his 4 day visit to Scotland. Photo Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography 2016 President Michael D Higgins is applauded by members of the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

“We are challenged to do democracy better, rather than resile to old and divisive myths based on exclusion, and often to what is thinly veiled hate or racism.”

President Higgins also described the “bonds of kinship and history” between Scotland and Ireland in his speech, claiming “ours is a friendship I deeply value, as I know you do”.

News 27062016. Pictured is President Michael D Higgins with Ms. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland being welcomed at the Ceangal Cultural Performance in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, on the 1st day of the Presidents 4 day visit to Scotland. Photo Chris Bellew / Copyright Fennell Photography 2016 President Higgins with First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon at the Ceangal Cultural Performance in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Picture: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

“From the ancient tribes who passed between our nations to farm, to fish, to trade, to preach and to pray, the patterns of migration between Ireland and Scotland are dense and overlapping,” he explained.

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He went on to reveal his support for plans to erect a Famine memorial in Glasgow, claiming: “This is appropriate, for I believe that an informed and respectful recognition of the complexities of our common past, an ethical remembering and transaction of old hurts, can help us build a better future.”

News 27062016. No repro Fee Pictured is President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina during visit to the the Govanhill Neighbourhood Centre, Daisy Streen in Glasgow where he visited some Irish Community Groups on the 1st day of the Presidents 4 day visit to Scotland. Photo Chris Bellew / Copyright Fennell Photography 2016 President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina watch a dance performance by Daisy Streen at the Govanhill Neighbourhood Centre. Picture: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

The President’s Holyrood address was one of the final events in his three-day schedule, with began with a meeting with members of the Irish community in Govanhill, Glasgow on Monday.

Later that day he met with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, before attending a cultural performance entitled Ceangal, while on Tuesday he accepted an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws at an event held at the University of Edinburgh.

Yesterday evening he delivered a speech on the life and legacy of James Connolly at an event being held at the University.