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Michael D hits target with poetic fire and brimstone

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins did his nation proud yesterday with his fiery address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

It was a passionate speech that encapsulated many of the enormous problems paralysing Europe and it poignantly summed up the consequences for all of us if the powerbrokers behind the bailouts and austerity measures fail to ease the problems that are affecting the continent.

Shortly after noon French time, Mr Higgins was ushered into the cavernous chamber by the European Parliament's president, Martin Schulz.

Stewards with long black coat tails and white gloves fussed around him as he prepared to make his first formal address to the parliament.

Mr Higgins didn't waste any time, delivering a dizzying mix of fire and brimstone, history and poetry, and hope and despair.

He told the chamber that European citizens were threatened with an unconscious drift to disharmony, a loss of social cohesion, a recurrence of racism and a deficit of democratic accountability.

They were, he declared, suffering the consequences from the actions of unaccountable bodies such as rating agencies.

The themes of connectedness, compassion, empathy and solidarity dominated Mr Higgins's oration. He warned of the dangers of Europe becoming a kind of Darwinian experiment or, as he elegantly put it, "an economic space of contestation between the strong and the weak".

The President's robust critique of the EU struck a chord with many of the MEPs in the chamber, who gave him a standing ovation when he finished.

In the final part of his address, he said Europe needed to build new models of connection between economy, society and policy. It needed to become a union of inclusiveness that works in solidarity with all of its citizens.

The President warned that without solidarity and democratic accountability we face a future where European citizens are regarded as "dependent variables to the opinions" of unaccountable rating agencies and that we will be reduced to being "pawns in a speculative chess board of fiscal moves".

It was a poetic finish to a compelling oration that summed up the stark crossroads Europe now faces.

A wrong turn could catapult us all into years of bleak recession and uncertainty. The right turn could give us the hope and optimism we now desperately need.

Irish Independent