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Image / Editorial

Michael D Higgins inauguration: ‘We must challenge the denial of the irreducible rights of women’


by Jennifer McShane
11th Nov 2018
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Michael D Higgins has officially been inaugurated as the President of Ireland for the second time. After a presidential campaign which divided the nation, it was Higgins who sought to unite and empower as he stood on the podium ready to step into another seven years of office.

Speaking at Dublin Castle on Sunday evening, he did, as ever, speak rousingly of the issues we must confront and challenge as a nation; the global issues facing Ireland: that we must strengthen and deepen our democratic values, protect our vulnerable planet and end the ongoing threat of violence against women.

Related: Higgins vows to end ‘scourge of violence against women’ in moving acceptance speech

“Ideas matter,” he said. And “history tells us that anti-intellectualism” is the “the weapon of authoritarian and anti-democratic forces in so many parts of our shared, vulnerable planet.”

“Our choice must be to actively extend and deepen democracy, to express it in wider forms and in new ways.”

“Violence against women must be ended”

He spoke of the difficulties women continually face in 2018, and the threat of violence which is still ever-present, even with #MeToo as a potent movement. Violence against women, he said, must be confronted and ended.

“We live with ongoing violence against women which must be ended. We must confront and challenge any excuses offered for the denial of the irreducible rights, of women who make up, let us not forget, a majority of humanity on this planet.”

He also recognised that all people in this country be free to express themselves and live as the person they fully are, regardless of gender, religion, or sexuality. “It is important that we recognise the rights and culture of indigenous peoples. It is also important that each person is free to express their sexuality, gender or relationship,” he said.

Possibilities of hope

He also praised our generation of young people for going against or rejecting “the undermining of democracy by xenophobia and hate.” They are, he said, inspiring hope; acting as agents of change in a world so wrought with indecision and divisiveness.

Ireland’s youth are “moving past models of insatiable consumption and are forging different paths to personal and collective fulfilment” and they want real freedom that is inclusive.

“They have rejected cynicism, have chosen political engagement in the public world and have chosen to be agents of ethical change, to make the possibilities of hope a reality,” he said.

“They see a future as defined by ethics, philosophy and creativity as the kind of future to which science and technology should be called to assist,” he told the audience at Dublin Castle.

Above all, he spoke of the importance of a united nation, one that if it is to truly succeed in solving these issues and making real, impactful change must go forward with the same vision of togetherness.