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When Ideas Matter

Michael D. Higgins
Head of Zeus
When Ideas Matter by Michael D. Higgins


From Inaugural Speech at Saint Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle, 11 November 2011

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, and which together we must forge anew.

I enter the ninth Presidency with a sense of humility, but also with confidence in the great capacity of our people not only to transcend present difficulties but to realize all of the wonderful possibilities that 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 immediately preceded me. They have developed our consciousness of human rights, of 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 to build upon.

As your President, I am grateful for the extent of the support, the strong mandate, you have given me. I also realize the challenges that I face, that we face together, in closing a chapter of our history that has left us fragile as an economy and 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 recognize the will 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 change 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 work together for a different set of values that will enable us to build a sustainable economy and a society which is ethical and inclusive; a society and a state that will restore trust 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 citizenship, one based on participation, equality, respect for all and the flowering of creativity. A confident people is our hope, a people at ease with itself, a people that grasps the deep meaning of the proverb ni neart go cur le cheile - our strength lies in our common weal.

Sin iad mor-theamai na hUachtardnachta atd curtha romham agam, agus me lan-dochasach go bhfuilimid ar thdirseach re nua d'Eirinn agus d'Eireannaigh, sa bhaile agus i gcein. Re nua ina mbeidh bunluacha na cothroime agus an chirt, agus spiorad na cruthaiochta, faoi bhldth: poblacht, a mbeidh Eireannaigh de gach aicme agus traidisiun broduil aisti. (Those are the major themes of the Presidency set before us; and I am fully confident that we are on the brink of a new age for Ireland and for Irish people, at home and abroad. An age in which the values of equality and rights, and a spirit of creativity, will all flourish; and a Republic of which all Irish people of all classes and traditions will be proud.)