ECONOMIC hardship and recession does not define who we are as a people, President Michael D Higgins says in his Christmas and new year's message.
In his second annual message, President Higgins says: "As our economy has contracted in recent times, many people are feeling the consequences in terms of employment or income."
However, he adds: "Our economic condition does not, on its own, define who we are."
Mr Higgins also says "we are, for example, a country with a network of communities that are increasingly active in responding to their own and society's difficulties".
And Irish people also have "the resource of our scattered people around the world, who support each other, and who value their connection with their homeland".
"Those of us who are fortunate enough to have a joyous Christmas should be mindful of the need to reach out to others who – due to loss, emigration, illness or financial circumstances – are going through a difficult time," President Higgins adds.
"Christmas provides an opportunity for us all to pause, reflect, and celebrate the things that we rightly cherish. It is a time when we, as citizens, as families, and as communities turn our minds to what is really important – family, friendship, neighbourliness and homecoming.
"At Christmas we have an opportunity to renew our appreciation of these gifts."
Mr Higgins also said 2013 will offer opportunities, including Ireland's six-month presidency of the EU, which begins in January.
"There is much to be proud of, and much to build on, as we prepare for the new year and look forward with hope and courage to realising all the possibilities it presents.
"Possibilities such as Ireland's seventh Presidency of the European Union, which coincides with European Year of Citizens in 2013, and the opportunity that represents to renew the founding idealism of Europe – a Europe of citizens, of social solidarity, of cohesion, and of shared cultures."
In his first full year in office, President Higgins held seminars for young people, called 'Being Young and Irish'.
He says that "engagement confirmed for me that our young people have a very positive vision for the future of Ireland".
He also thanked gardai, prison officers, the Defence Forces, emergency services and medical staff who work over Christmas.