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Dublin: 10 °C Friday 18 April, 2014

The Presidential inauguration: as it happened

Join us as we liveblog the inauguration ceremony for Michael D Higgins, the soon-to-be ninth president of Ireland

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

MORNING EVERYONE and welcome along to our liveblog for today’s presidential inauguration. Michael D Higgins, academic, poet, and former TD, will become the ninth president of Ireland in a ceremony in Dublin Castle at 12 noon.

He will be sworn in by the Chief Justice in front of the Taoiseach, other dignatories and invited guests.  Stick around as we’ll be following all the build-up to the event, the ceremony, Michael D’s speech and everything else that happens today. Well, not everything. Everything inauguration-related…

11.42 – By the way, if you’re following events on Twitter, the hashtag is #pres9 (although there are also a few tweets popping up on the now-defunct #aras11 tag).

11.34 – Guests are currently arriving at the rather swish St. Patrick’s Hall in Dublin Castle ahead of the ceremony which starts at noon.  Some of his one-time competitors in the presidential race have just walked in – David Norris, Sean Gallagher and Mary Davis.

There’s going to be a huge amount of dignitaries at the ceremony today – though not Bertie Ahern, as we found out last night – but Michael D has also invited  lots of ‘regular’ people from all walks of life to attend the ceremony. Nice touch.

11.37 – Housekeeping: It’s not exactly the best weather for an inauguration. Rain, rain and more rain. Bryan Dobson, who is presenting the RTE coverage from the courtyard in Dublin Castle, is wearing a giant raincoat in what appears to be a losing battle with the elements.  Hopefully it’s not an omen.

11.39 – The final guest to arrive is Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who has just pulled up to the Dublin Castle courtyard. On Twitter, blogger Suzy Byrne reports that the President-elect has left Farmleigh and is on his way to the ceremony.

11.45 – Michael D’s motorcade is now arriving in the courtyard of Dublin Castle. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Education Minister Ruairi Quinn are greeting the president-elect and his wife Sabina. They turn briefly towards the photographers who are gathered outside, Michael D gives them a wave, and then they all walk into Dublin Castle together.  Aw.

11.47 – 300 members of the Irish Defence Forces, a specially-designed chair (fancy!), and a 21-gun salute   – while we’re waiting for the ceremony to start, have a read of our guide to exactly what’s going to be involved in today’s ceremony.

11.50 – Speaking of the military involvement in the ceremony, have a look at this rather excellent video of the Irish Air Corps conducting fly-overs above Dublin in preparation for the inauguration. Dublin looks so pretty from the air…


12.02 – There’s an actual drumroll before Michael D is led into the room by military officers, flanked by Eamon Gilmore.  The entire room is standing as he walks in, and the president-elect stands at the top of the room for a few short moments while the band plays a specially-commissioned piece of music.

11.57 – Just three minutes to go before Michael D is inaugurated by Susan Denham, the Chief Justice.

Guests are now being asked to rise as former taoisigh, presidents and members of the Council of State enter the hall – among them, we spotted Enda Kenny, Mary Robinson, Brian Cowen, John Bruton and the outgoing president Mary McAleese.

12.07 – The Taoiseach introduces the  multi-denominational prayer service.

The choir sings a rather lovely hymn and  Diarmuid Martin, the Catholic Arbishop of Dublin, reads out a prayer for the soon-to-be new president.

12.10 – The RTE camera in the hall is slowly panning along the front row of guests, roughly a foot away from their faces.  Some of the high-profile guests stare up at the camera looking slightly annoyed/puzzled. BACK UP, CAMERAMAN. We don’t need to get *that* close.

12.23 – There are more prayers to represent the different religious communities in Ireland – Methodist, humanists, Coptic orthodox, Jewish, and now Muslim leaders have all read out prayers asking for blessings for Michael D.

The multi-denominational aspect was part of Michael D’s plan to have a service that was inclusive of everyone in the country. Lot of crankiness about the religious parts on Twitter though…

12.39 – Enda Kenny stands up to speak about President Higgins. He says that Higgins has always supported the marginalised and “has been a voice for the marginalised” throughout his career.

He talks about the type of republic that Michael D wants to build – one built on “respect, virtue, love and duty to our country and to each other”.

It’s a short speech from Enda, but it’s quite moving. Michael D standing up to speak now to outline his vision for the presidency.

12.29 – With the religious part out of the way, Enda Kenny is now starting the official part of the inauguration. He’s calling on Chief Justice Susan Denham to read out the oath.

12.35 – Susan Denham reads out the presidential oath in Irish and Michael D repeats it after her.

In the oath, he promises to “maintain the Constitution of Ireland and uphold its laws” and to fulfil his duties “faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law”.

The Chief Justice puts the declaration of office in front of Michael D to sign – and that’s it! He’s now officially President Higgins, making him the 9th president of Ireland.

The presidential standard has now been raised outside Dublin Castle and there’s  a pretty impressive 21 gun salute.  The hall gives  him a standing ovation.

12.35 – Aw. The RTE cameras just cut to Sabina Higgins, who had taken off her glasses and was crying.

12.46 – President Higgins starts by saying that he enters the presidency with humility and confidence in the capability of the Irish people. He pays tribute to Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson for their work on human rights, inclusion and peace and says he hopes to follow in their footsteps.

He says that Ireland has been “wounded as a society” but that the Irish people shouldn’t focus on frustration and cynicism. Instead he wants to “close the chapter on that which has failed” and instead open a new chapter in Irish history “based on a different version of our Irishness”.

“Our strength lies in our social solidarity”, he tells the audience.

12.47 – Higgins says that he wants this to be a “presidency of transformation” and to celebrate “all of our possibilities”.

His focus is on inclusion and creativity.

12.49 – He announces he’ll be holding a series of presidential seminars to discuss issues affecting the country, the first of which will be about what it means to be young in Ireland.

12.51 – Higgins is citing James Connolly as an inspiration.

12.54 – “Every age must have its own aisling and dream of a better, kinder world,” says President Higgins.

“It is my wish to be a president for all Irish people, at home and abroad”.

He invites the Irish diaspora, “wherever they may be across the world” to become involved with the task of  ”rebuilding our economy and our society”.

12.56 – Michael D (President Michael D? Will that take off?) gets a standing ovation for his speech.

Bryan Dobson on RTE says that none of the previous presidents set out “an agenda so comprehensive or so ambitious” with their inauguration speech.

13.23 – So what’s going to happen next? Michael D and Sabina will be driven to the Áras – as soon as he finishes shaking hands with all of the schoolkids, which doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon. Guests will start arriving for the state reception in Dublin Castle around 6.15pm and the reception will begin at 7pm, ten minutes after the new president arrives.

12.59 – The national anthem is sung and more handshakes for Michael D from the dignitaries behind him.

As he and Sabina prepare to walk out of the hall, flanked by a military guard, the camera flashes to the four Higgins children who all look thrilled for their father.

13.03 – The new President will now inspect the Guard of Honour. The Irish Defence Forces just tweeted a photo of what the Guard looks like.

13.13 – President Michael D is inspecting the Guard of Honour in the courtyard of Dublin Castle. One officer is holding an umbrella over him as he walks up and down the lines – the weather hasn’t gotten much better since the ceremony started and the rain is still hitting the cobblestones.

There’s a big group of school children standing behind a barrier in one part of the courtyard, all wrapped up in rain gear and waving the presidential standard (a gold harp on a dark blue background, fact fans). They’re cheering him on as he walks around.

13.20 – A 12-year-old kid, wrapped up in lots of raingear, presents a big bouquet of flowers to Sabina Higgins while Michael D beams.

The two are now shaking hands with lots of the schoolkids in the courtyard. Lots of them are trying to get photos of the new president on their phones.  There are 350 students here from primary and secondary schools around the country – and it looks like the president is trying to shake hands with every single one of them.

13.57 – So that’s it – all over for now. Michael D has just arrived at the Áras where he’ll stay for a couple of hours before going to the state reception at Dublin Castle this evening.

Granted there haven’t been all that many of them, but Michael D’s inaugural speech was one of the strongest of any president – you can read the full text of that impressive presidential inauguration speech here, and you can read Enda Kenny’s speech here.

Thanks to everyone for reading. Be back here again in seven years, yes?

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