independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Straight to business for determined Michael D

After his first official duty in St Patrick's Cathedral, our new President will go north of Border, reports Jerome Reilly

Michael D Higgins begins his official duties as President of Ireland today

Michael D Higgins begins his official duties as President of Ireland today and it already looks as though he is intent on continuing the work of his predecessor Mary McAleese in building bridges between North and South.

His first official appearance will be at St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin this afternoon for the annual Remembrance Day service, but from there he will be whisked north of the Border to attend the final of the all-island school choir competition in Derry.

In his inaugural address, marked by the breadth of his ambition for his seven-year term, Mr Higgins spoke of the work of Mrs McAleese and former President Mary Robinson in fostering community relations on both sides of the Border.

"They have made contributions that developed our consciousness of human rights, inclusion, and the important task of deepening and sustaining peace within and between communities in every part of our island. It is work I will endeavour to continue and build upon."

His decision to go North on his first day of official duties is being regarded as a potent symbol of that intent.

The visit is part of busy first week in office. On Tuesday night, the new President, who remains a life-long patron of Galway United, will attend the second leg of Ireland's play-off for qualification for next summer's European Championships against Estonia, an occasion that promises to be a carnival atmosphere following last Friday night's 4-0 win.

On Thursday evening he will meet fellow poet Seamus Heaney at the Irish Book Awards as the Nobel laureate receives a lifetime achievement award and the new President will also have to appoint seven people to his Council of State for the next seven years.

It has emerged that Mr Higgins wrote his 2,000-word speech for the inauguration while on a brief retreat at Glenstal Abbey last week

Mark Patrick Hederman, the Abbot of Glenstal Abbey, was in Dublin Castle to hear the address in which Mr Higgins outlined his vision, saying he entered the ninth Presidency "with a sense of humility, but also with confidence in the great capacity of our people, the people of Ireland, not only to transcend present difficulties but to realise all of the wonderful possibilities that I believe await us in the years ahead".

In his address, Mr Higgins condemned the individualism of the boom years that "tended to value the worth of a person in terms of the accumulation of wealth rather than their fundamental dignity".

He spoke of Ireland's heritage, adding that "some of our richest moments have been those that turned towards the future and a sense of what might be possible".

It was that ability that would "enable us to transcend our present difficulties and celebrate the real Republic which is ours for the making".

"We Irish are a creative, resourceful, talented and warm people, with a firm sense of common decency and justice. Let us address the next seven years with hope and courage as we work together to build the future for our country -- an Ireland we all feel part of, an Ireland we all feel proud of," he said.

Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina will bring a 'First Dog', to the Aras.

Bruno, a Bernese Mountain dog, is 13-months-old and was left homeless after his previous owners, a young couple from the North, were forced to emigrate to South Africa in search of work.

The pair reluctantly gave Bruno to Valerie Hughes, a Galway-based Bernese breeder who belongs to the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Ireland. She may also supply a second Bernese mountain dog, a puppy, in the new year.

Sunday Independent

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