Thursday 23 March 2017

Content of speech was a sign of the times

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins delivered an inauguration speech that was significantly longer than those of Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson.

His speech amounted to 1,999 words, which was ahead of Ms McAleese's 1,620-word speech back in 1997 and Mrs Robinson's 1,454-word speech.

As the first male president for 21 years, he was not able to copy Mrs Robinson's famous rallying call to "Mna na hEireann". He also made only a fleeting reference to the North by speaking of the need to remain open to "reconciliation". In contrast, Mrs McAleese devoted half of her inaugural speech to her theme of "Building Bridges".

In another sign of the times, he spoke about trying to encourage "job creation" as President -- a role never mentioned by his two predecessors in their speeches.

But Mr Higgins promised to give attention to many of the same causes -- such as engaging with the Irish diaspora and meeting local community groups.

Surprisingly, he quoted just one famous Irish figure -- 1916 leader and Labour Party founder James Connolly -- and left out WB Yeats. Mrs McAleese and Mrs Robinson both quoted Yeats, as well as fellow poets Louis MacNeice and Eavan Boland.

Mr Higgins shared common ground with his two predecessors when he spoke about our rich culture of art and drama. But as a former Arts Minister, he alone spoke about creating jobs by championing "creative communities".

Irish Independent

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