Áras an Uachtarán
St Patrick

President Higgins links struggles of migrants to our patron saint in St Patrick's Day message

The president stated that ‘a poisonous xenophobia, new and recalled, has taken hold in so many places’.

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has said that the life of St Patrick is a reminder of the “resilience and courage of migrants” in his annual St Patrick’s Day message.

Higgins said that whether someone is “Irish by birth or Irish by choice”, they are bound together as part of a vibrant global community.

“As we honour our patron saint, Naomh Pádraig, how appropriate it is that we recall the foundational story upon which our National Day, is based, that story of the slavery of his time as a young man.”

“Saint Patrick emerged from slavery, having been trafficked across the Irish Sea as a young man. After six years he escaped, returning to his family and his studies in Britain. Yet, in a remarkable display of resilience and generosity, he would later return to Ireland as a missionary,” he said.

“There are many powerful echoes from Patrick’s life that resonate with our contemporary circumstances, ones that have brought new forms of slavery into being, where racism is increasing rather than decreasing, in so many parts of a world, where a poisonous xenophobia, new and recalled, has taken hold in so many places. It is in these spaces where fear is being sowed.”

The war in Ukraine sparked the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War, with some asylum seekers arriving here having to sleep rough on the streets of Dublin.

Misinformation on asylum seekers has surged, leading to Gardaí to examine whether a building in Dublin city centre was set on fire by a group who believed, incorrectly, that the building was to be used as a direct provision centre.

“The story of Patrick’s transformation that would lead to his becoming an emblem of the country he adopted as his own, stands in counterpoint and is so important,” Higgins said.

“While Saint Patrick’s story encourages us to reflect on the significance of migration running through our history as a constant feature of the Irish experience, we are required to respond to the ongoing, brutal reality of human trafficking and forced migration as a constant feature of human experience.”

“It is by doing that we can most fully embrace Patrick’s legacy and our own place and exercise our responsibilities in today’s world.

“The story of his life as a migrant, we must never forget, is a reminder of the resilience and necessary courage of migrants, a reminder too of the contributions that they have made, and continue to make, to the countries they call home.”

The president also called on people to extend empathy to the Horn of Africa, where millions are suffering from famines and droughts.

“How shameful it is too that 64 countries in the developing world were forced, while struggling with the Covid pandemic, to spend more on debt repayments than on funding public health,” he said.

President Higgins added that humanity has an ethical need to support each other and that it is a “tragic injustice” that those in the developing world who bear the least responsibility for climate change will be the people who suffer the most from it.

“Let us envision how our lives could be without war, famine, hunger and greed, in a world that eschews the poisonous ideals of imperialism and embraces the decent instincts of humanity that Saint Patrick embodied.”

“I wish you all a most enjoyable and peaceful Saint Patrick’s Day,” he concluded.

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