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Saturday 24 February 2018

Michael D's call to arms for a bright, confident and successful future

The speech

Paul Melia

IT was the speech that we would have expected from the nation's ninth President. Big themes, big ideas and ambitious plans to renew the Republic and help restore the self-confidence of a battered and bruised people.

President Michael D Higgins invoked ancient Irish poetry and the great socialist leader James Connolly in a heartfelt call to arms to the Irish people yesterday, saying it was time to move beyond "anger, frustration and cynicism" and embrace the future during what he said would be his "presidency of transformation".

It was clear, concise and to the point. He outlined his vision for the future, where everyone would be included and no one would be left behind; where creative thinking would create jobs and where "wonderful possibilities" awaited.

Here, we set out some of the major themes of his presidency and explain what we can expect to see and hear over the next seven years.

•A presidency of transformation

The country must move beyond the old ways of thinking that have failed us. Innovation and original thinking will help create jobs and promote investment. We need change. Seminars where issues surrounding emigration, exclusion, education and participation in decision-making will help shape new ideas.

•Inclusive/active citizenship

In the past, people were judged on how much they earned and that attitude has resulted in our current economic woes. Everyone must be listened to and treated with respect and creativity encouraged.

•Creative communities

Michael D is well known for his views on the arts, believing everyone should have the opportunity to express themselves creatively through music, song, dance, poetry or other forms. This creativity at a local level can transform communities and those positive stories must be highlighted and used to create employment, particularly in the arts.

•National consciousness

Irish people see the world differently from others. It is this innovation and independence of thought that has produced distinguished scientists, writers, artists and poets. We need to turn to an "older wisdom", which recognises material comforts as a right for all, but also recognises that our successes in peace-building and human rights were brought about because of our different worldview.

•Aisling -- an ancient form of poetry dating from the 17th Century

In an aisling, Ireland appears to the poet in a vision in the form of a woman who is sometimes young and beautiful and sometimes old and haggard, depending on the state of the nation. In Michael D's vision, Ireland would take the latter form.

•James Connolly

Like Connolly, Mr Higgins believes Ireland is still a work in progress. We must respect the past, but not forget about shaping the future.

•Politics of memory

The 1916 Rising centenary takes place in just five years' time. In what seems like a plea to end civil-war politics, this will involve accepting different versions of history.

Irish Independent

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