Saturday 21 April 2018

Coalition backs Higgins austerity attack

President calls for EU solidarity on Croatia trip

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

President Michael D Higgins has got the backing of the Coalition for his latest call on the EU to take the social consequences of its austerity policies into account.

He was delivering a speech on the future of Europe on the second day of his state visit to Croatia.

President Higgins said that there was a need for Europe to take account of the social consequences of its actions when responding to economic challenges.

VULNERABLE

"We need a Europe that shows solidarity with the most vulnerable among us, that throws real energy and determination behind efforts to create the sustainable growth and jobs so vital to their well-being," he said.

And President Higgins said that there had to be a Europe that celebrated the human spirit rather than "a dry technocratic order with a very limited moral and intellectual base".

News 06062013. No Repro Fee
Pictured is President of Ireland Michael D Higgins presenting a facsimile of the Book of Durrow to Prof. Dr. Aleksa Bjelis, Rector of the University of Zagreb during the Presidents 3 day state visit to the Republic of Croatia. Photo Chris Bellew / Fennells.
News 06062013. No Repro Fee Pictured is President of Ireland Michael D Higgins presenting a facsimile of the Book of Durrow to Prof. Dr. Aleksa Bjelis, Rector of the University of Zagreb during the Presidents 3 day state visit to the Republic of Croatia. Photo Chris Bellew / Fennells.

A Labour spokesman said that President Higgins was reflecting the approach of government, which was very much in favour of policies to create jobs and growth. And he said his speech's content was similar to one delivered by Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore recently about tackling youth unemployment at an OECD conference in Paris.

In his speech on the future of Europe at the University of Zagreb, President Higgins highlighted the impact of the economic crisis on young people in Europe, with youth unemployment running above 25pc in Ireland, 50pc in Spain and a massive 64pc in Greece.

"The blight of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment which is at alarming levels in some member states, is the greatest challenge," he said.

President Higgins lavished praise on the EU for its role in transforming the Irish economy and society since joining in 1973. He told the Croatian audience, whose country is joining the EU on July 1, that they too could expect similar benefits.

President Higgins also managed to mention WB Yeats, who served two terms in the Seanad, in two separate functions yesterday in the Croatian capital Zagreb.

And he pointedly referred to the poet both times as "Senator" WB Yeats, at a time when the Government is bringing in legislation for the referendum to abolish the Seanad. But President Higgins has told reporters that it is not appropriate for him to comment on government policy.

His speech was less hard-hitting that his previous address to the European Parliament last April.

In that speech, he warned of a "crisis of legitimacy" in the EU and called the dominant economic thinking in Europe and elsewhere "the great flaw of our times".

Irish Independent

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