May I send my very best wishes for St Patrick’s Day to the people of Ireland and to our global family and friends around the world. I do so with particular warmth in this year when we commemorate the centenary of one of the most significant events in our nation’s journey to independence – the Easter Rising of 1916.
As we come together to celebrate our Irishness on our national day, it is appropriate that we not only recall our founding moments, but also take the opportunity to imagine what Ireland might yet become. We must ask ourselves how we might best use that freedom which was handed down to us by previous generations in such a way as will serve all of our people.
As to 1916, with the benefit of rich and recent scholarship, we can appreciate in a new way the complexity of the historic event that was the Easter Rising. We can now acknowledge the diverse identities, backgrounds and experiences of those who participated in it, as well as the varied ideologies and beliefs that motivated them. We also recognise that, whatever their differing priorities, all of these men and women were at one in their commitment to rejecting Empire. All of them were determined to achieve independence, and to proclaim a free Republic with equal rights and opportunities for all its citizens.
One hundred years later, as we reflect on the Proclamation of 1916, and the idealism that inspired it, we are urged to re-engage with the work of crafting, together, a Republic worthy of that title. We are invited to seek to achieve the unfulfilled promises of the past as we imagine, together, new possibilities for our present and collective future.
In undertaking that task we can draw on the aspirations, expressed in different places and at different times by our people since the founding moments of our State, in The Democratic Programme of the First Dáil in 1919, in Bunreacht na hÉireann in 1937 and in the sentiments expressed at the moment of the formal establishment of the Irish Republic in 1948. As a people we have of course revisited our Constitution on many occasions, seeking to ensure that the principles it enshrines bring us closer to the ideals of freedom, justice and equality that were proclaimed in 1916. The need for idealism remains.
On many occasions since my inauguration as President of Ireland I have witnessed idealism of so many at every level of our society here in Ireland, and amongst our extended family around the globe, who are working for the creation of a better world at home and abroad. Their sense of justice and solidarity is reflected in a multitude of actions that it is a pleasure to acknowledge.
When we Irish are at our best we are a nation defined by a commitment to human rights, creative imagination, and at a global level the upholding of freedom from oppression. In this new century, we Irish have a most valuable contribution to make in the global fight against extreme poverty, hunger, and in our response to climate change. Conscious of our history and culture, we can give a lead too in crafting a human response to the ongoing refugee crisis. We can, in so many ways, continue the work of making Ireland the Real Republic of which our founders dreamed.
May I wish all Irish people, by birth or descent, and those who have made new homes here in Ireland, and all who share our national day with us, a very happy St. Patrick’s Day.
MICHAEL D. HIGGINS
UACHTARÁN NA hÉIREANN
PRESIDENT OF IRELAND