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President Michael D Higgins speaking at the St Vincent de Paul conference at the Convention Centre today. Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland
St Vincent de Paul

President Higgins says Irish still face 'life draining impediments'

Addressing the annual conference of the SVP, he said that Ireland had “failed so frequently” to adopt policies that were good for its citizens.

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D HIGGINS has said that Ireland needs to foster a “new connection between economy, society and the person – one based on ethics.”

Higgins made the comments during today’s conference of the St Vincent de Paul, which marked the bicentenary of the birth of the organisations founder, Blessed Frederick Ozanam.

Praising the non-profit organisation, Higgins said that their work had always tried to “challenge the root causes of poverty and social injustice.”

Speaking of those who are currently struggling, Higgins said that poverty, homelessness and mortgage arrears were “serious obstacles to a genuinely inclusive citizenship”, believing that these “life draining impediments” created barriers between these people and society.

‘We Irish failed so frequently’

Ireland’s president went on to say:

We know that, in recent years, we Irish failed so frequently to ensure that policies were centred on what was good or necessary for the citizenry as a whole and allowed much of the economic decision making to focus instead on the advancement of private interests which often undermined the very basis of our society.

Looking back on this, he said he hoped that Ireland had learnt that an over-reliance on “unregulated markets” would not produce “either a social economy or a space of citizenship”.

“Instead that public space of citizenship will become subsumed to the private demands of consumption,” he said.

‘Trust has been sacrificed’

Higgins said that a lot of trust had been sacrificed “at public level” in recent decades, giving particular mention to a failure to regulate Ireland’s banking system.

In finishing, he praised the continuing work of the SVP:

I would like to conclude by thanking those who give so freely of their time, skills and experience to ensure the legacy of that great humanitarian Blessed Frederick Ozanam continues two hundred years after his birth and one hundred and eighty years after he uttered those far reaching words ‘Yes, let us visit the poor’.

Read: President Higgins: We cannot ignore the suffering of European citizens >

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