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‘We must draw on our strengths now’: President issues rallying cry to follow social distancing rules

by Jennifer McShane
20th Mar 2020

“We must draw on our strengths now”

President Michael D Higgins has issued a rallying cry for young people around the country to abide social distancing rules stating that “irresponsible individual actions puts all at risk.”

Signing emergency laws on Friday, President Higgins used a press statement to warn people of their actions during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the country had to come together – by being apart – to beat the coronavirus.

The law gives the State powers to restrict mass gatherings and allow for the detention of people who refuse to self-isolate.

“As President, I am urging all citizens, given the emergency of our situation in relation to the grave challenge to our public health, to respond in a generous way to the Health Service Executive’s advice on measures to alleviate the spread of Covid19,” he said, urging the nation to be united.

“These new health and social measures may be difficult for many but they affect us all and we are at a point now when a person’s actions have consequences not only for themselves but for all in society. Irresponsible individual action puts all at risk. We must draw on our strengths now.

“Intergenerational solidarity has been one of the greatest resources of contemporary Irish society. ”

The President said that future generations will look back and be proud of how society overcame challenges during this outbreak.

“Future generations, it is my belief, will look back at this critical time and I hope that they will be proud of how we as a society rose to the challenges together, with different generations taking account of one another.”

In his statement, the President urged young people, in particular, to spread the word among their peers about social distancing.

“I have such appreciation for, and deeply value the connection I have experienced with, young people around the country. I appeal to these young people to spread the word among their friends of the importance of that which we have been asked to do,” he said.

“In every generation, there will be exceptions to what is being sought in the public interest. Let us hope that we have seen the end of such behaviour which puts all of us at risk.”

“Many of the older people, of whose generation Sabina and I are a part, and to whom I have spoken, have been very appreciative of the large numbers of young people who are helping them, and that such assistance is offered in such a caring way that addresses issues of our older citizens that go far beyond the delivery of necessary groceries or food.

“Those older people who have been helped have felt a connection within society, a sense of a bond that is being strengthened rather than weakened. Older people as well as being grateful for how they have been helped have spoken of how they have welcomed the sight of young people who have given them such hope for the Ireland that is to come.”

“We need people to take social distancing seriously”

His statement comes as Minister for Health Simon Harris asks the Irish people to “redouble” their efforts on social distancing.

“I know lots of people are making efforts, but I am nowhere near satisfied that we’re taking social distancing seriously and if you look at some of our parks – and it’s absolutely appropriate for people to go home, get some fresh air, take some exercise, that’s actually good for you – but it’s not good for you to be in crowded parks.

“It’s not good for teenagers to be getting together – this is not the summer holidays. We do need people to take social distancing seriously and what that means is, there should be two meters between you and other people,” he said.

Read more: How I’m doing date night during social-distancing

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Read more: Dr Doireann O’Leahy: ‘People are confusing social distancing with self-isolation’