PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has donated 700 of his own personal books to Dublin City Libraries for nationwide distribution.
He attended Cabra Library in north Dublin this afternoon, where the titles are now available for public access.
Speaking to reporters, he said that reading is one of the greatest skillsets “for life”.
“If I had a wish for the children of Ireland into the future, it would be that they would all have access to reading and access to a musical instrument and maybe even be able to swim, then you have the greatest equipment for life,” he said.
He recalled being denied a particular book written by a philosopher when he was younger.
“I remember when I came to Galway first, asking for a book, I think by a particular author, maybe it might have been Bertrand Russell and being told that, ‘I can’t give it to you, because it won’t be good for you’.
“Books are published to be read.
“Having spent a period of time with me, I’m very anxious that [the donated books] go to where the pages will be turned over and where they’ll be of most value,” he said.
“I think books are wonderful and libraries are wonderful,” he added.
The books have come into the library over the last couple of months and have been added to the catalogue.
Dublin City Librarian Mairead Owens said that his collection is available to the public from today in Cabra Library, but the books can also be requested by patrons across the country.
“It’s about 700 books, books that he bought, books that the family bought him, even some children’s books and Irish language, as well as precious material like local history and local studies and they’ll go into a reserve.
“The books can be reserved in libraries around the country and when you’re browsing, you may come across a book that’s made its way from Áras an Uachtarain onto a public library shelf,” she said.
Ms Owens said that the president’s personal collection was “taking over” Áras an Uachtarain.
“The president is a bibliophile and a great reader and wanted his books looked after.
“They were taking over Aras an Uachtarain, there were too many - so what do you do with 700 books? Well, let’s give them to the people of Ireland,” Ms Owens added.
When asked about the general election, the president said that it is crucial to remain positive.
“It’s very, very important to be positive, I have great confidence in the process that we have,” he said.
“I want to wish all of the people who will be having discussions with each other every success.
“Whatever they decide, we are obviously facing into a period in which the European Union is redefining itself in several different levels we’re probably now moving into some of the most complex parts of the trade agreement in relation to our neighbours.”
He said that climate change and the biodiversity breakdown is a challenge for all politicians.
“But there are huge issues internationally as well, the theme standing in the background of every politician alive at the present time are issues of climate change and loss of biodiversity.
“At the appropriate times, people will visit me in the Aras and I will give my blessing for however long it lasts,” he said.