President Michael D tells children to lay off video games in first official engagement
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins used his first official engagement with Ireland's youth to suggest they lay off TV and video games, and embrace their imaginations instead.
The poet and arts champion, who was a guest at children's culture centre The Ark in Dublin's Temple Bar, said being imaginative and creative would open children up to greater opportunities in the future and help them grow into more active citizens.
"We must encourage all citizens, particularly children, to, as Raymond Williams put it, 'Be the arrow, not the target'," the president said.
He was quoting Welsh novelist and playwright Williams who, like him, was a lifelong supporter of the arts.
"It is possible to form the impression that many of today's children no longer fully appreciate the joy of taking refuge in their own imaginations, preferring to spend their time on computer games, or watching digital television or playing with pre-programmed electronic toys," the president said.
His visit to The Ark, which holds drama, dance and art workshops for children, was his first official engagement with youngsters since his inauguration on November 11.
During his election campaign, Mr Higgins pledged to champion the arts and creative industries, and to help bring in more related jobs.
The 70-year-old also stressed the importance of Ireland's youth.
In an address to the children today, he praised The Ark and the work it does.
"Many of The Ark's productions are brave and daring, stretching the imagination to its very boundaries," Mr Higgins said.
"This allows children to liberate their vivid and creative imagination and to freely follow their thoughts and ideas to wherever they may lead. What a wonderful start in life to give a child and what a world of opportunities it opens up to them.
"What a great foundation for democratic active citizenship it makes."
The Ark director Eina McHugh said she was honoured and grateful for Mr Higgins' visit.
"It is wonderfully symbolic that the president is giving one of his first recognitions of importance to cultural work for children and young people," said Ms McHugh.
"We are uplifted by his encouragement, that cultural encounters for children are of essential importance and that The Ark, as a unique seedbed of creativity and artistic excellence, has a shining role to play in building a stronger new society."