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Michael D Higgins: Ireland owes 'enormous debt of gratitude' to Covid-19 essential workers

The president made an address to the citizens of Ireland on independent radio stations this afternoon.

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has said Ireland owes a “debt of gratitude” to those who are risking their safety to ensure that essential services continue during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an address to the citizens of Ireland on independent radio stations this afternoon, the president said it was important that Irish citizens continued to show solidarity, empathy and kindness to help each other through the global crisis.

He also expressed his condolences to those who had lost loved ones to the coronavirus, and said his thoughts were with all those who had lost their jobs during the crisis. 

“Sabina and I offer our deepest sympathies to those who have been bereaved in recent days and weeks as a result of the pandemic,” the president said.

“To those of you, too, who have loved ones in intensive care or who are waiting for results of a test, we offer our solidarity.

“The pain of losing a loved one to this cruel disease has been compounded for so many by the inability of friends and family to offer consolation and support in the way we usually would.

“The shake of a hand, a sympathetic touch, a comforting embrace, even our physical presence for those few days following a sudden loss, are not available to us for the very good reason that we are all involved in slowing and overcoming the virus.”

Tributes to workers

The president began his speech by highlighting the important role played by the media, particularly local media, during the ongoing crisis.

It followed recent announcements of job losses by the publishers of several regional outlets, which have been attributed to the loss of advertising revenue in recent weeks.

“Knowing how important local media – local, community radio stations and local newspapers – is to all of our citizens and those, in particular, who are housebound, I am availing of this valuable resource to send a message to our citizens,” Higgins said.

“May I send my best wishes to you all as we face, together, the challenge of responding to the global health emergency, Covid-19.”

He also paid tribute, on behalf of of the Irish people, to the country’s healthcare workers, GPs, pharmacists and their staff, as well as to members of the Defence Forces and An Garda Síochána and those working in food production, retail and caring roles.

“We owe all of you an enormous debt of gratitude… [many] are making an extraordinary and exemplary contribution to our country at this difficult time,” the president said.

‘All of us can reflect’

The president later urged the general public to continue to protect those vulnerable to the coronavirus by abiding by new restrictions introduced over the weekend, despite the challenge that doing so presented.

He said that Ireland was experiencing a moment which demanded a lot from its citizens, but said he believed many were discovering their capacity for empathy and compassion.

“This is a time, too, when all of us can reflect on how best our individual and collective actions can shape the new Ireland that will emerge from this global crisis,” he said.

“At this critical turning point in our history, we are invited to re-imagine and reconstruct, drawing on the great spirit of generous citizenship that has thrived, flourished, been given expression in recent weeks.

“We know it is through that generous compassion, and our sense of shared humanity with all those with whom we share this vulnerable planet, that we will be enabled to navigate our way forward to a better and more humane world.”

The president said that although the country may still have dark days ahead, it was important for Ireland not to lose sight of the opportunity to draw on its sense of solidarity, empathy and kindness to get through the crisis.

“This virus will pass and when it does we can show our appreciation by supporting even more what is local – radio stations, newspapers and the local economy in every way, including retail and services,” he concluded.

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