Sunday 17 February 2019

Ireland still 'marred by inequality' - Higgins

(L to R) Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, Sabina Higgins, Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail & Cathaoirleach Denis O'Donovan during an event to commemorate the centenary of the First Dáil at the Mansion House, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
(L to R) Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, Sabina Higgins, Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail & Cathaoirleach Denis O'Donovan during an event to commemorate the centenary of the First Dáil at the Mansion House, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Our Republic is "marred by inequalities in power, wealth, income and opportunity", President Michael D Higgins has said.

In his address to mark the centenary of the Dáil, Mr Higgins struck both an optimistic and pessimistic note.

He said the same challenges that confronted "the revolutionary generation still abide with us today".

To an audience that included politicians from the North and south of the Border, he said citizens are being denied "the basic elements of a dignified existence within our republic - housing, healthcare, education, support for those with particular needs".

The President also warned that we now live in a world witnessing "the return of an ugly, xenophobic corruption of nationalism".

He urged Irish people to welcome and shelter those fleeing war, persecution and famine.

Arrival: Dublin Lord Mayor Nial Ring (left) welcomes Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to the Mansion House. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Arrival: Dublin Lord Mayor Nial Ring (left) welcomes Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to the Mansion House. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

"True nationalism addresses need, not only as part of a nation, but as part of an international family of nations," Mr Higgins said.

He cautioned about the threat of climate change, saying it poses a danger "undreamed by our forebearers".

In his contribution, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Democratic Programme unveiled during the first sitting "points to where the State has fallen short".

"Its assertion that 'the first duty of the government of the Republic' will be to ensure 'that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training' reminds us of our responsibilities to children.

"Industrial schools, illegal adoptions, and Mother and Baby Homes were a betrayal of those ideals," he said.

"Although today the rate of child poverty in Ireland is only a fraction of what it was 100 years ago, and is falling, we must do better."

Irish Independent

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