Michael D Higgins: 'Time to reconnect society and ethics'
Michael D believes people of Ireland can explore 'endless possibilities', write Daniel McConnell and Maeve Sheehan
A BEAMING Michael D Higgins drew applause and cheers when he gave his rousing acceptance speech at Dublin Castle as the President-elect of Ireland, elected with a vote of 1,007,104.
"Ireland has made its choice for the future and it has chosen the version of Irishness it will be. I will work with head and heart to be part with all of you in creating that future, one which all of us can be proud of," he said.
Flanked by his wife, Sabina, his family, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and four of the six losing candidates (Gay Mitchell and Mary Davis did not attend), Mr Higgins paid tribute to his Labour Party colleagues and the human rights, arts and advocacy groups that assisted in his campaign.
"I am particularly grateful to the more than a million people who have said that I am acceptable to them as the ninth President of Ireland," he said, thanking his wife -- "my inspiration and my partner" -- and family.
He said he was leaving the Labour Party, "for the presidency is an independent office and the Irish people . . . have given a very clear mandate on a very clear set of ideas to me as the ninth president".
He paid tribute to his rivals and also said: "I want to be a president too for those who didn't vote, whose trust in public institutions I will encourage and work to recover. And always in my mind, too, will be those who have gone away and I will be their president too."
He outlined his "vision" of a real republic, "where life and language, where ideals and experience, have the ring of authenticity, which we need now as we go forward. During a long campaign, which for me was almost 14 months since I first sought a nomination from the Labour Party, I saw and felt and feel the pain of the Irish people. I recognise the need for a reflection on those values and assumptions, often carelessly taken, that had brought us to such a sorry pass in social and economic terms, for which such a high price has been paid and is being paid.
"I recognise the righteous anger, but I also saw the need for healing and to move past recrimination. I love our shared island, our shared Ireland and its core decency. I love it for its imagination and its celebration of the endless possibilities for our people."
He said change had already begun: "This necessary transformation which has now begun will, I hope, result in making the values of equality, respect, participation in an active citizenship, the characteristic of the next seven years. The reconnection of society, economy and ethics, is a project we cannot postpone."
He said youth would be the subject of his first presidential seminar. "That will discuss youth participation, youth decision-making, youth unemployment, youth emigration, youth suicide and so forth. These are the ideas that came in many ways," he said.
Touring the country, he found that "there is a real task of restoring trust in certain institutions again. In other words, the public world has to be restored in that regard.
"I think what I also noticed as well, and it's obviously an area in which I have no role as president, was a certain reaction to the perceived impunity of those who'd had trust placed in them and had let the public down."
He said that "unemployment and other things are not somebody else's problem. These are collective problems which require a collective and cooperative response".
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said he was extremely happy about the outcome. "We go back a long way. I want to thank my own party for nominating him.
"He is departing from us. He has been the life and certainly the soul of the party."