POET, politician and campaigner Michael D Higgins became Ireland’s ninth president today with a promise that his presidency will be one of transformation and ideas.
With an undertaking to champion communities, creativity and inclusion, he said that we were ending a chapter that had left us “fragile as an economy and wounded as a society”.
But he said we are opening a new chapter based on a different vision of our Irishness.
Attacking corrosive individualism he said he was returning to a time of old wisdoms and said we must act together to build active, inclusive citizenship.
Acknowledging the immense contribution of those who proceeded him in the office, he paid particular tribute to the “two great women” who went before him.
And he promised to endeavour to continue and build on their work.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny described President Higgins as a “noble man of quiet virtue” and said that he had spent his life defending the marginalised.
He said the former Labour minister was a “real republican” and would be a president of healing and transformation.
President Higgins is now taking up his seven-year role as head of state after the formal swearing-in in front of outgoing President Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and invited guests which began at 12 noon.
Mr Higgins, 70, who arrived before midday, had a moment of private reflection in the Connolly room of Dublin Castle, named in honour of the 1916 rebel leader James Connolly, before the ceremony started.
The inauguration included a Christian service of prayer followed by blessings from Islamic and Jewish representatives and a moment of reflection to mark the humanist philosophy and secular aspects of Irish life.
During his election campaign, Mr Higgins spoke about the need to be more inclusive and also suggested the presidential oath could be modernised to support that idea.
Chief Justice Susan Denham presented Mr Higgins with his seal of office.
In his speech President Higgins said he wanted to be a president for all Irish at home and abroad.
“We must strive to address the circumstances that led to involuntary emigration, he said adding that it was time to move beyond anger, frustration and cynicism.
“We Irish are a creative, resourceful, talented and warm people. We must work together to forge a shared future,” he said.
President Higgins attacked the material individualism of recent years and urged a return to an older wisdom.
"Every age, after all, must have its own 'aisling' and dream of a better, kinder, happier, shared world," he said.
The veteran politician, a life-long Labour Party member, addressed scores of dignitaries in St Patrick's and evoked rebel leader James Connolly, saying that he believed that Ireland is a work in progress, a country still to be fully imagined and invented.
The demands and rewards of building a real and inclusive Republic in its fullest sense remains as a challenge for us all, but it is one we should embrace together," he said.
After the ceremony at Dublin Castle President Higgins and his wife Sabina inspected a guard of honour made up of 107 officers before heading to Aras an Uachtarain.
Mr Higgins also met 350 schoolchildren of all ages invited from all parts of the country
The Presidential Standard, blue with a gold harp, flew from Dublin Castle to announce the inauguration before a 21-gun salute was fired from the site of Collins Barracks.
European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso sent him a message of congratulations saying: “You are taking office at an important time as Ireland takes resolute action to address difficult economic circumstances and in doing so is setting an example for other countries facing similar challenges.
Muintir na hÉireann and friends of Ireland at home and abroad, there can be no greater honour than to have been elected Uachtarán na hÉireann - President of Ireland. I thank you the people of Ireland for the honour you have bestowed upon me and I accept and appreciate the great responsibilities of that office.