Friday 19 July 2019

'Never has Europe been more important for Ireland' - President Michael D Higgins warns of Brexit challenges

President Michael D Higgins Photo: Damien Eagers
President Michael D Higgins Photo: Damien Eagers
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

THE decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union involves profound challenges for Ireland, President Michael D Higgins has warned, saying: “Never has Europe been more important for Ireland.”

However he said that ‘side by side with our European partners, we will together ‘manage the present and chart the future.’

The President and his wife Sabina have arrived in Berlin ahead of  the start of their three day visit to Germany tomorrow, when they will meet President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

In an opinion piece to coincide with his visit, carried in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung – the German newspaper with the largest circulation abroad -  Mr Higgins said both our countries enjoy  ‘a strong partnership based on shared European values of tolerance, respect for human rights and commitment to the United Nations and the multilateral world order.’

And he said he hopes his State visit will reinforce these shared beliefs and celebrate ‘the enduring links between the Irish and the German people.’

As President of Ireland, he said he appreciates ‘the stability and strength of our relationship, especially in today’s increasingly complex and rapidly changing geo-political environment’.

He commended Germany for its ‘positive European and global leadership, most notably during the migration crisis of recent years.’

“I recognise the sacrifices made by Germany in welcoming those who sought refuge from conflict, oppression, violence and hatred,” he said.

“These sacrifices generated considerable debate in Germany but this debate, in an open, positive and constructive setting, is precisely what is needed if we are to effectively address the problems facing today’s world, respond appropriately to the consequences of conflict, oppression, dispossession and the displacements caused by climate change and endemic poverty,” President Higgins said.

“As a new generation comes of age, it is timely to remind ourselves of why the European Union was created,” said the President, adding: “We must pro-actively encourage reflection and open debate on the Union among all of our citizens if we are to reinforce in the streets and in the homes of Europe the Union’s values of tolerance, the rule of law, democracy and respect for cultural diversity.“

He said we are witnessing a period where the future shape of the European Union is being contested. “Moreover, the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union involves profound challenges for Ireland,” he said, adding that he wished to acknowledge the solidarity that has been offered to our island at this difficult time.

“Never has Europe been more important for Ireland. We are both proudly Irish proudly European. Side by side with our European partners, we will together manage the present and chart the future,” said President Higgins.

And he said the Europe of tomorrow, “which we must begin to build today, will be bound by connections that support, motivate and responsibly meet the needs of one another.”

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