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President Higgins calls for global solidarity to 'exit the fog' of Covid-19 in St Patrick's Day message

The president said: “We have been reminded of our shared vulnerability, our interdependence, the need for an understanding that can fly past borders.”

Source: Áras an Uachtaráin/YouTube

PRESIDENT OF IRELAND Michael D Higgins has called for the global community to “exit the fog” of Covid-19 together in his St Patrick’s Day message.

In a speech touching on climate change and vaccine distribution, President Higgins extended a “hand of friendship” to all of those Irish by birth, descent or association and to all of those who have assisted Irish people. 

Opening his speech, the president asked what an appropriate message would be on St Patrick’s Day in 2021, given the events of the last year. 

“Perhaps in the special circumstances of this year, we should give the day back to the story of Saint Patrick, that powerful mythic source upon which our National Day, which we offer to the world every year on the 17th of March, is based,” he said. 

He went on to describe the story of St Patrick who was said to have arrived in Ireland as a slave, who escaped and then returned.

President Higgins described him as “of the stock of our early foundational Irish migrants”, which would go on to include those who emigrated during the Famine and in the years after. 

He said: “When in so many places, in so many different circumstances, voices of invocation by Irish people sing out on Saint Patrick’s Day, they are placing their invocation alongside the invocations and prayers of migrant communities everywhere who have, over generations, sought to collectively transcend present circumstances.  

On Saint Patrick’s Day 2021, we have been reminded of our shared vulnerability, our interdependence, the need for an understanding that can fly past borders.
In the message we have received from Covid, surely there is the undeniable insight that we must all, and together, exit the fog of not only the pandemic but all of the hubris, the arrogance, the vanities of assuming the right to dominate, to impose, to exclude; strategies of life which have left us such a legacy of lost communality and a planet in danger.

President Higgins said we have had an opportunity in the past year to examine “the assumptions that have brought upon us less than the best of ourselves”. 

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“Surely we do not need to make war to find peace,” he said. “And then when we discover a remedy, an insight of science for the avoidance or cure of disease, it must be for the sharing, rather than the hoarding as a commodity for use in aggressive trade competition.

There will be a capacity for joy in our exit from Covid-19, but that joy should be informed by our reflection on the new values we will invoke and practice as we set out on the new journey we undertake together. Out of Covid we must globally share that which we need for a shared journey. Trust in words is fading. That trust must be restored.

He said that in the years to come when we can parade again and gather in celebration, he hopes that we can recall this St Patrick’s Day as the beginning of a new journey. 

President Higgins concluded: “I wish you, and all those who form part of the Irish family, and its friends in the families of the world, a happy and peaceful Saint Patrick’s Day.”

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Sean Murray

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