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Michael D Higgins Christmas message: 'The burden of homelessness will overshadow the festive season'

In his annual address, Higgins said that Christmas was a time to reflect on the year gone by and to think of the story “that lies at the heart of this festive season”.

Source: Áras an Uachtaráin/YouTube

PRESIDENT OF IRELAND Michael D Higgins has used his annual Christmas message to highlight the plight of Ireland’s homeless, as well as refugees and displaced migrants and people suffering around the world.

In his annual address, Higgins said that Christmas was a time to reflect on the year gone by and to think of the story “that lies at the heart of this festive season”.

“That story is of a long and difficult journey, and the birth of a child, in a temporary home, in Bethlehem two thousand years ago,” said Higgins.

“Let us think too of how far from a state of peace that region is today, and how the absence of peace reflects our failure at a human and diplomatic level, and how, sadly, we hear words that provoke rather than heal.

Across the many years and miles that separate us from the original Christmas story, we can unfortunately see too many parallels in our own society today.

The president said that as we reflect on the story of a family searching for a home and security, we should also “consider the many personal and difficult journeys currently being undertaken by so many of the fellow citizens of our shared and vulnerable planet at home and abroad”.

He said that it was important to recognise how the story of Bethlehem resonated in today’s society, and how people should be inspired to stand in solidarity with those “for whom, and for whatever reason, this Christmas will be a dark and difficult one”.

“This Christmas, once again, the burden of homelessness will overshadow the festive season for those deprived of a secure and permanent shelter,” the president said.

We are challenged, I suggest, to turn this time of celebration into a sustained commitment of awareness and care for those for whom each day is an act of survival.

Supporting the vulnerable 

Higgins took the opportunity to thank the people who “work so tirelessly to support those in our society who are vulnerable”.

“I have been fortunate to meet with so many groups and volunteers who have shone, and continue to shine, a light of hope into the lives of some of our most marginalised people,” he said.

Their work is an inspiring example and an uplifting reminder of the real will and capacity that exists among the people of Ireland, to re-imagine our society, and achieve an inclusive republic for all of our citizens.

Higgins said that the whole of Ireland should work to create next year “a sense of hope and optimism for each and every person and family”.

He also reflected on the ongoing plight of refugees and displaced people and on the “many millions of children, women and men around the world who are so far from the comfort and dignity of a home or secure shelter”.

“During 2017, we learned that 20 people are newly displaced every minute, forced to leave their homes, to seek refuge,” the president said.

Wars, conflict, persecution, and natural disasters have forced more people to flee than at any other time since records began. Indeed, we have read of some of those fleeing being sold into slavery.

Higgins also directly referenced the ongoing persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

He said that their fleeing to Bangladesh, “reminds us vividly of what some communities face on their long and difficult struggle to find a rightful place in a peaceful society”.

“As a global community and as responsible global citizens, we are called upon to respond in a way which will respect the universal right to live in safety and with dignity.

I know that Irish citizens across the world will stand with those who are suffering and that they will, as before, support those who are responding to these crises, and who are thus showing solidarity with the most vulnerable.

Higgins closed by greeting the Irish people and diaspora living abroad in other countries, and he thanked frontline members of An Garda Síochána, the Prison Service, hospital and emergency services staff, and members of the Defence Forces serving abroad for their work.

May I wish each and every one of you, wherever you may be, a peaceful and happy Christmas.

Read: Michael D Higgins unveiled The People’s Acorn in Áras an Uachtaráin today

Read: ‘Today is a global milestone’: Uilleann pipes get international recognition

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