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President Higgins' Christmas message: 'Do we dismiss them... telling them there is no room at our inn?'

Michael D Higgins also urged people to take action on the climate crisis in his annual address.

President Michael D Higgins.
President Michael D Higgins.
Image: Áras an Uachtaráin via YouTube

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has said that we must “all act as a global community” to help combat climate change in his annual Christmas message

He said that a worthy commitment to make this Christmas was “fostering a sense justice” and “developing a consciousness of a shared humanity” in face of the problems before us.

The president added that we are currently in a “very important chapter of our history” and shouldn’t turn away those who look to us for protection and shelter for themselves and their families.

‘No room at the inn’

Higgins – who is finishing his first full year in his second term as President of Ireland – began his message by saying that Christmas signals a time of “light and hope”. 

“It is also a time when we can all reflect on its central theme – the story of Mary and Joseph seeking refuge in Bethlehem for themselves and their unborn child, and being repeatedly told that there was ‘no room at the inn’.

Here in Ireland, we have our own long history of emigration, of movement, of journeys of leavings and exile.
At this time of year we recall with pride, not only the contribution our diaspora make to the culture and life of their new homes, but also we remember those Irish who may be experiencing a sense of loss of belonging, away from their origins, loved ones, and who are hurting at this time.  It is right that we think of them, and not only at Christmas.

The president said that generous contributions received from Irish emigrants during times of poverty and hardship were key to the constructing of an Ireland that “might become one of hope and opportunity”. 

“That is a very important chapter of our history and one we must never forget,” he said.

Today many people turn to us, their fellow global citizens, for protection and shelter for themselves and their families, and for the provision of hope for a better future.  Do we dismiss them from our door, telling them there is no room at our inn, or do we greet them in a spirit of hospitality bearing in mind the history of emigration that is such a defining characteristic of the Irish people?

Source: Áras an Uachtaráin/YouTube

Climate change

Higgins said this year has shown the need for collective action on climate change and biodiversity loss.

He said it was uplifting to witness the younger generation demonstrate their willingness to play their part, a reference to the climate strikes that saw thousands of students hitting the streets.

While governments have a key role, “we all must act as a global community” if we are to “succeed in meeting this greatest challenge”. 

“This is an issue of justice for the future generations who will inhabit our planet,” he said.

Fostering a sense of justice, developing a consciousness of a shared humanity, one that will compel us to reconnect our lives through a balanced relationship between ecology, ethics, economics, culture and a lived experience of fulfilment is surely a commitment worthy of making this Christmas, which ends a year during which we have been asked to face so many challenges.

He closed the speech by calling for a solidarity which “has always given strength to the beating heart of our society”. 

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Sean Murray

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