The Puzzle President - Time for a crash-course in 'Higgins-speak'

The Puzzle President - Time for a crash-course in 'Higgins-speak'

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins will address the Houses of Parliament this afternoon (Tuesday), but if you’re planning to get a front row seat then you might want to come ready to have your mind stretched... and bring a dictionary.

The Irish President, a former academic and poet, has a way with words - from talking about the actualisation of the reality of authentic citizenship to the reconstruction of an economy that supersedes the individual and maximises the social.

So to provide a crash course in Higgins-speak, we’ve translated a selection of the President’s past quotes…

On solving Europe’s problems, part 1…

President Higgins: “The formulation of a discourse on such issues as the possibility of having a pluralism of responses that would enable the member states of the European Union to address their citizens’ concerns on unemployment, poverty, social insecurity and growing inequality is, I believe, both urgent and important,”

Translation: “We need to talk about letting EU countries tackle people's concerns over unemployment and poverty in their own way.”


On the future of Europe…

President Higgins: “From the flux of diverse histories, from our current problems, from our fears and our aspirations I hope will emerge a response that constitutes a tapestry of many colours, of different strengths in its threads; and, in its design, evocative of what memory has made endure, and the human spirit has invested with hope.”

Translation: “We have a lot of differences;  things aren’t perfect. But I hope we can come together and use our different strengths.”


On where Ireland went wrong…

President Higgins: “The ethical values necessary to be at the heart of any flourishing society not to speak of a Republic, were seen, by some, as a redundant relic of the past.  The prevailing ethos of the property boom, dominated by an aggressive individualism and an almost reverential approach to speculative wealth, to consumption for its own sake.”

Translation: “During the Celtic Tiger years, we focused too much on ourselves, on property and on buying stuff.”

President Michael D Higgins President Michael D Higgins

On Ireland’s community spirit…

President Higgins: “(Today) is an opportunity to see the community spirit that exists in abundance in all parts of Ireland; to see the real pride of towns that have united in a concerted effort to enhance the place in which they live and enter and become winners of the Tidy Town Competition; the voluntary organisations that are helping our vulnerable citizens in so many ways; the schools which are celebrating significant anniversaries have woven themselves into the lives and histories of their communities and the families which attended them; the genuine care and compassion of dedicated staff in hospitals and care homes and their gift of imbuing such places with a sense of community and family.”

Translation: “Today we see the community spirit that exists across Ireland; the people who have come together to make their towns better; the charities that help them; the schools at the heart of these towns.  And let’s not forget the work of hospitals and care homes that make us feel like one big family.”


On tackling the difficult history of Britain and Ireland…

President Higgins: “I applaud the individuals and the communities who have the courage to examine the damaged elements and distortions of both our shared and divided pasts, and who are devoting themselves to finding ways out of the old cycles of belief and behaviour, and taking others with them along that path of creating a creative peaceful present and a joyful future.”

Translation: “I thank those who are examining the past and trying to find a way for us to overcome our differences in the future.”


On overcoming historical divisions…

President Higgins: “We can use the experience of remembrance, if approached in an inclusive manner, with an openness to the experiences and views of others, and willingness to interrogate our own preconceptions, to transcend the historical divisions and understand more about our neighbours and in doing so, ourselves.”

Translation: “Remembering the past without forgetting the experiences of others helps us to understand them.”

new higgins pic june

On Ireland’s long struggle for freedom…

President Higgins: “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.”

Translation: “Ireland’s long struggle for freedom has made Irish people very independently-minded. And that has also given us some great artists and scientists.”


On solving Europe’s problems, part2…

President Higgins: “At a time of economic crisis and loss of confidence in institutions and decision-makers; a time when citizens are instinctively searching for authenticity whilst feeling a sense of frustration at what is not being realised in real economic terms, we need to face the contradictions of our time with moral courage including a commitment to a discourse which recognises Europe’s past with an adequate reflection and to recall the hopes and beliefs which were so embedded in the earliest visions of our European project.”

Translation: “Now that we have an economic crisis, nobody trusts their leaders and people are frustrated by the slow economic recovery, we need to remember Europe’s past and talk about the EU’s founding principles.”


On sectarianism in the North of Ireland…

President Higgins: “As recent events on the streets in Belfast show, the toxins of a divisive past have not entirely abated; there is still much work to be done in promoting reconciliation between communities and ending sectarianism. Nevertheless, despite these challenges, I firmly believe that Ireland and Britain now much better understand, respect and honour the history we share and encounter with our different narratives, and we are now working together as confident equal partners on the world stage.”

Translation: “Sectarianism still exists in Belfast and we’ve got to do more to end it. But on the whole, Britain and Ireland respect and understand each other’s history these days. We also work together as equals.”


On building a better future…

President Higgins: “It is a time to remember that a knowledge of our history is intrinsic to the creation of active and responsible citizenship and to the building of communities and a society that are fair, inclusive and participative.”

Translation: “Remember, you need to know about your history to create good citizens and fair communities that involve everyone.”


On Ireland’s future, part 1…

President Higgins: “The Irish people, who are rightly recognised for their fortitude, work ethic and courage, will take us out of this present crisis. The authentic voice, spirit and values of Ireland will be restored and will lead us to what is important – a real economy that provides sustainable employment for all and a just and ethical society that allows all its citizens to fully participate and achieve their life potential.”

Translation: “Things will get better in Ireland thanks to its strong and courageous people. Then we’ll have an economy with long-term jobs and a good society in which everyone can do their best.”

higgins web

On Ireland’s future, part 2…

President Higgins: “We are living through very difficult times; times that challenge us to deliver an alternative society by rebuilding our economy in a way that will create a sustainable and productive connection between economy and society with sustainable and fulfilling employment and restoring Ireland’s once proud international reputation.”

Translation: “Times are tough. We need to build an economy that creates good long-term jobs and promotes society. That will restore the good reputation Ireland used to have.”


On human rights…

President Higgins: “We need now to include all of the different intellectual instruments that we have, to take off in a new beginning, taking UNESCO as the path towards constructing new models of economy embedded in culture, of human rights at the heart of development, of human rights itself being constituted in such a way that the discourse of reason and of different faith systems can live together on the common assumption that their universal protections of the body, and of the person, and of the dignity of all must never be let go.”

Translation: “We need to do everything possible to make sure everyone can live together and agree to protect the bodies and dignity of others.”