Thursday 18 December 2014

President Higgins: Human cost of financial crisis in Ireland has been enormous

President Higgins delivered the keynote speech at Guildhall banquet on the second day of the Irish State visit

Published 09/04/2014 | 21:35

President Michael D Higgins gave the keynote address at a gala dinner tonight in London as part of the Irish State visit to Britain.

In an economic-themed speech this evening, President Higgins quoted the late poet Seamus Heaney and said; “We are not simply a credit rating or an economy but a history and a culture, a human population rather than a statistical phenomenon.”

President Higgins said the human cost of the financial crisis has been ‘enormous’ and employment stills remains too high.

“The emigration of our young people is a challenge to our future prosperity,” he said.

“It is clear to us in Ireland that providing opportunity for our young people, and harnessing their talents, will be the true measure of our recovery.”

President Higgins thanked our ‘friends in the United Kingdom’ for their support during the economic crisis and said the country was ‘deeply grateful’.

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Coyne arrive to attend a banquet in the Presidents honour at The Guildhall, in London, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Higgins is on a state visit to Britain, the first ever by an Irish head of state. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Coyne arrive to attend a banquet in the Presidents honour at The Guildhall, in London, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Prime Minster David Cameron (right) walks ahead of the President of the Republic of Ireland Michael D Higgins in 10 Downing Street, central London, prior to a short meeting as part of his state visit to the UK. Lefteris Pitarakis/PA Wire
Prime Minster David Cameron (right) shakes hands with the President of the Republic of Ireland Michael D Higgins, prior to a meeting in 10 Downing Street, central London, as part of his state visit to the UK. Lefteris Pitarakis/PA Wire
Prime Minster David Cameron welcomes the President of the Republic of Ireland Michael D Higgins to Downing Street during his state visit to the UK, in Westminster central London. John Stillwell/PA Wire
Prime Minster David Cameron (right) talks with the President of the Republic of Ireland Michael D Higgins in 10 Downing Street, central London, as part of his state visit to the UK: Lefteris Pitarakis/PA Wire
Prime Minster David Cameron welcomes the President of the Republic of Ireland Michael D Higgins to Downing Street during his state visit to the UK, in Westminster central London. John Stillwell/PA Wire
Prime Minster David Cameron (right) talks with the President of the Republic of Ireland Michael D Higgins in 10 Downing Street, central London, as part of his state visit to the UK. Andy Rain/PA Wire
The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, waves to the waiting Media as he leaves Downing Street in London, during his state visit to the UK. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
The Duke of York shows the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, accompanied by his wife Sabina Higgins, the Colours of the Disbanded Irish Regiments in the Grand stairs at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Steve Parsons/PA Wire
The Duke of York shows the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins (right), accompanied by his wife Sabina Higgins, the Colours of the Disbanded Irish Regiments in the Grand Stairs at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Steve Parsons/PA Wire
President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, centre right, inspects a Guard of Honour as he arrives to attend a banquet in his honour, at The Guildhall, in London, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A journalist uses a smart phone to capture the arrival of the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Coyne as they arrive to attend a banquet given in the President's honour at The Guildhall, in London, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
President of Ireland Michael D Higgins inspects a Guard of Honour as he arrives to attend a banquet in his honour at The Guildhall, in London, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
President of Ireland Michael D Higgins inspects a Guard of Honour as he arrives to attend a banquet in his honour at The Guildhall, in London, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
The Duke of York shows the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins (centre), accompanied by his wife Sabina Higgins and David Rankin-Hunt, Deputy Inspector, Regimental Colours for the Royal Collection (left) the Colours of the Disbanded Irish Regiments in the Grand Stairs at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Steve Parsons/PA Wire
The Duke of York shows the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins (right), accompanied by his wife Sabina Higgins, the Colours of the Disbanded Irish Regiments in the Grand Stairs at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Steve Parsons/PA Wire
The Duke of York shows the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins (second right), accompanied by his wife Sabina Higgins and David Rankin-Hunt, Deputy Inspector, Regimental Colours for the Royal Collection (right) the Colours of the Disbanded Irish Regiments in the Grand Stairs at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Steve Parsons/PA Wire

“But it is the ordinary people of Ireland, and generations yet to come, who have borne and continue to bear the cost of the painful decisions that have been taken, aimed at stabilising the public finances and reducing the astounding levels of public debt incurred from rescuing our banks,” he said.

“In the end, it is how our respective peoples experience the result of our action or inaction that is the test of the quality of our decisions.”

On a lighter note, the President also joked about whose jersey he'll be wearing for the World Cup, saying; 'If Ireland cannot be at the World Cup Finals, then I will raise a glass to England to go all the way'

The event was attended by 700 guests.

Earlier today, President Higgins spoke at an official lunch in his honour at 10 Downing Street by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Irish president told Mr Cameron that the proximity of Britain and Ireland has sometimes stopped the two nations from seeing the richness in each other.

The President also spoke with Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

"I can't tell you the excitement in my office. I have lots of Irish people and they've all been making freshly baked biscuits, it's unprecedented,” Mr Johnson joked.

President Higgins and his wife Sabina also attended a youth workshop, the University College Hospital in London and a tour of the Royal Academy. 

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