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President Higgins warns of the return of 'an ugly, xenophobic corruption of nationalism'

Michael D Higgins was commemorating the centenary of the establishment of Dáil Éireann.

Michael D Higgins addresses the joint sitting of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann
Michael D Higgins addresses the joint sitting of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has warned of “the return of an ugly, xenophobic corruption of nationalism”, speaking at commemorations for the centenary of the establishment of Dáil Éireann. 

Higgins told attendees at the ceremony at Dublin’s Mansion House that the same challenges that faced the revolutionary generation still abide with us today.

“We struggle to meet the needs of all of our people, even as our republic remains marred by inequalities in power, wealth, income and opportunity, mí-cothromaíocht.

“Poverty subsists amidst plenty, even as we fail to provide some of our citizens with the basic elements of a dignified existence within our republic – housing, healthcare, education, support for those with particular needs,” he said. 

Today, across the world, we are witnessing the return of an ugly, xenophobic corruption of nationalism, long since thought vanquished from our political life.

President Higgins continued that there is now “open disdain” for the welcoming of those fleeing war, persecution, and famine, “so often relied upon by Irish men and women throughout the ages”. 

“True nationalism addresses need, not only as part of a nation, but as part of an international family of nations,” he said. 

‘These troubled times’

Higgins said the first Teachta Dáila was not only as a symbol of a national struggle but a reflection of a “global movement for national self-determination”. 

He went on to reference how in the wake of World War I, the first Dáil issued a revolutionary ‘Message to the Free Nations of the World’ aimed at the Versailles Peace Conference where the fate of the independence of small nations was up for discussion.

The message read:

‘believes in freedom and justice as the fundamental principles of international law, because she believes in a frank co-operation between the peoples for equal rights against the vested privileges of ancient tyrannies, because the permanent peace of Europe can never be secured by perpetuating military dominion for the profit of empire but only by establishing the control of government in every land upon the basis of the free will of a free people’.

He insisted that in “these troubled times” those principles should be honoured. 

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‘A duty to honour the past’

Higgins concluded by addressing the elected officials in attendance, telling them they have a special duty not only to their constituents but to the people of Ireland and the world. 

A duty to honour the past and fashion the future, for the benefit of all of those on this island and in solidarity with our sisters and brothers from other nations.

“As we carry out the work of the people, let us honour the ideas and idealism of those who assembled in this chamber one hundred years ago, and those who followed them over the last century – their hopes and their dreams, their triumphs and their failures. Let us rededicate ourselves to the cause of peace and justice in the world. Let us continue in our mission to build, here in our country, a republic of liberty, equality and justice for all,” Higgins said.    

Today, to mark the centenary and to celebrate the 100 years of Irish democracy since, a ceremonial event involving the three branches of the Oireachtas is being the Mansion House. Follow the entire event here

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Adam Daly

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