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President Michael D Higgins pays tribute to frontline workers who paid 'the ultimate price'

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President Higgins (Danny Lawson/PA)

President Higgins (Danny Lawson/PA)

PA

President Higgins (Danny Lawson/PA)

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to frontline workers who paid “the ultimate price” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Higgins warned it would be an error if through some form of collective amnesia, we forgot their efforts during this dark chapter and returned to a society that often failed to value them enough.

Flanked by workers at Áras an Uachtaráin, Mr Higgins laid a wreath at a starry plough sculpture in memory of those who lost their lives.

He paused in silence with his wife Sabina during the ceremony on an International Workers Memorial Day like no other.

Five workers representing hundreds of thousands of their colleagues socially- distanced in the sunny grounds in a much quieter than normal Phoenix Park.

They were Karen McGowan, an advanced nurse practitioner at the emergency department in Beaumont, Maria Markey, an officer with Dublin Fire Brigade at Tara Street. Gerry Sexton, an An Post worker since 1984, Suzanne Hales, a cleaner at St James Hospital, and Catriona Mansfield, who works at SuperValu in Blanchardstown.

Mr Higgins said he was there to celebrate the lives and contributions of those no longer with us, but alive in our minds and hearts.

“This year, sadly, we gather with our fellow workers across the globe at a time of unprecedented risk for those who work tirelessly and selflessly in our health services, and those who ensure the continued delivery of essential services and utilities on which our citizens depend,” he said.

He said in recent weeks we have witnessed outstanding work by those in jobs that are often undervalued.

“The statistics tell us that over a quarter of confirmed cases of Covid-19 relate to health care workers and our heart goes out to their loved ones,” he said.

“It is only by closing the gap on words and actions in relation to conditions, safety and provision that we can sufficiently and ethically commemorate those workers we honour here today.”

He recalled the battle cry of Cork-born activist Mary ‘Mother’ Jones. “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

General secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Patricia King, said we are living through extraordinary days.

“Workers and their families have to keep going in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed many lives, undermined our economy and left many workers laid off or unemployed,” she said.

She said when life slowly returns to “some new normal”, workers must have a new paradigm based on equality and universal public services in a sustainable economy, as well as a commitment to create safer workplaces.

Online Editors