DOZENS of topics ranging from the role ethics plays in business, the economy, the internet and public life will be discussed during 50 seminars across the country.
The Royal Irish Academy and universities in Limerick, Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford, Belfast and Maynooth will host the bulk of the debates, but two will take place in the Netherlands and Italy.
The universities were chosen to begin the debate because they had the "staff, space and capacity to get it started", President Higgins said.
There would also be a series of meetings held in community locations, and the public would be encouraged to take part in the year-long discussion.
Trinity College will host a number of Long Room Consultations on 'Ethical Lessons from the Crisis'. Among the focus areas are business, public institutions and public representatives, the regulated professions including lawyers and accountants, and a seminar on 'Citizenship, Governance and Accountability'.
The Dublin Institute of Technology will host discussions on the environment, including planning and construction, and a debate on financial services and food quality and security.
Queen's University in Belfast will host a seminar on religion and public life.
In Cork and Limerick there will be seminars discussing 'Community Voices for a Renewed Ireland', while UCC and the Waterford Institute of Technology will host an Economy & Society Summer School.
Other topics to be addressed include striking the balance between rights and responsibilities, ethical advertising, political lobbying, hate speech, ethics in healthcare, in finance and the financial sector, the internet, social media and data collection.
Guest speakers will also give a series of lectures, while two seminars on "ethical heroes" will involve members of the sporting and music communities.
Other events will be announced as they are finalised, with a national seminar to be held in Aras an Uachtarain at the end of the year.