President Michael D Higgins gave the keynote address at a gala dinner tonight in London as part of the Irish State visit to Britain.
In an economic-themed speech this evening, President Higgins quoted the late poet Seamus Heaney and said; “We are not simply a credit rating or an economy but a history and a culture, a human population rather than a statistical phenomenon.”
President Higgins said the human cost of the financial crisis has been ‘enormous’ and employment stills remains too high.
“The emigration of our young people is a challenge to our future prosperity,” he said.
“It is clear to us in Ireland that providing opportunity for our young people, and harnessing their talents, will be the true measure of our recovery.”
President Higgins thanked our ‘friends in the United Kingdom’ for their support during the economic crisis and said the country was ‘deeply grateful’.
“But it is the ordinary people of Ireland, and generations yet to come, who have borne and continue to bear the cost of the painful decisions that have been taken, aimed at stabilising the public finances and reducing the astounding levels of public debt incurred from rescuing our banks,” he said.
“In the end, it is how our respective peoples experience the result of our action or inaction that is the test of the quality of our decisions.”
On a lighter note, the President also joked about whose jersey he'll be wearing for the World Cup, saying; 'If Ireland cannot be at the World Cup Finals, then I will raise a glass to England to go all the way'
The event was attended by 700 guests.
Earlier today, President Higgins spoke at an official lunch in his honour at 10 Downing Street by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Irish president told Mr Cameron that the proximity of Britain and Ireland has sometimes stopped the two nations from seeing the richness in each other.
The President also spoke with Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
"I can't tell you the excitement in my office. I have lots of Irish people and they've all been making freshly baked biscuits, it's unprecedented,” Mr Johnson joked.
President Higgins and his wife Sabina also attended a youth workshop, the University College Hospital in London and a tour of the Royal Academy.