PRESIDENT OF IRELAND Michael D Higgins has extended a “hand of friendship” to the Irish at home and abroad as part of his annual St Patrick’s Day message.
In a wide-ranging speech that touched on issues like vaccine distribution and climate change, President Higgins called on the global community to “exit the fog” of Covid-19 together.
He began by harking back to the story of St Patrick and “that powerful mythic source upon which our National Day.”
“Patrick arrived in Ireland as a slave, escaped and returned. He is of the stock of our early foundational Irish migrants, which anticipates our monastic messengers, our nineteenth-century emigration prior to the Great Famine, and the haemorrhage of our people who managed to flee for survival in post-Famine times.
“In 1901, of all the Irish born on the island of Ireland, a majority lived outside of the island of Ireland. Saint Patrick’s Day, then, must always be a special day for recalling our migrant history and learning from it, be a source of our ethics and of our policy at home and abroad.”
The President drew on the example of St Patrick in showing “respect for nature” given the impact of climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Our Patron Patrick saw the necessity of placing his message alongside respect for nature, with its right and promise of renewal that was there in indigenous forms of spirituality,” he said.
“On Saint Patrick’s Day 2021, we have been reminded of our shared vulnerability, our interdependence, the need for an understanding that can fly past borders.
“In the message we have received from COVID, surely there is the undeniable insight that we must all, and together, exit the fog of not only the pandemic but all of the hubris, the arrogance, the vanities of assuming the right to dominate, to impose, to exclude; strategies of life which have left us such a legacy of lost communality and a planet in danger.”
“We have had the opportunity, since last year in particular, then, to examine the assumptions that have brought upon us less than the best of ourselves. There is much to be discarded, and we should do so without unnecessary recrimination. Surely we do not need to make war to find peace; and then when we discover a remedy, an insight of science for the avoidance or cure of disease, it must be for the sharing, rather than the hoarding as a commodity for use in aggressive trade competition.”
While he acknowledged the world’s eventual exit from Covid-19 would bring joy to the world, he believes it is crucial that it be “informed by our reflection on the new values we will invoke and practice as we set out on the new journey we undertake together.”
“In this year, no doubt, there will be pain. While there will be a recall of journeys remembered, there will be the disappointment of journeys anticipated but now, necessarily, postponed. Our hearts must be with those many for whom a technological alternative is an insufficient substitute for touch or intimacy.”
He called on the public to make “Saint Patrick’s Day 2021 the beginning of a new journey, one we are happy to share with the whole world and all of its people, and one that helped renew a respect for Mother Earth to which we all belong."
“When in the future we recall Saint Patrick’s Day 2021, let us have returned with even more energy to music as we lift the glass slowly, and replenish it even slower.”
He concluded with a message to Irish people watching and listening around the world.
“On behalf of the people of Ireland, I extend a hand of friendship across the globe to all those who are Irish by birth, descent or association, and to all those who have assisted our Irish people, especially over the past year,” he said.
“I wish you, and all those who form part of the Irish family, and its friends in the families of the world, a happy and peaceful Saint Patrick’s Day.