‘You are not alone’: President Michael D Higgins’ message for the Irish in the UK

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has addressed the Irish in Britain emphasising the need for solidarity and co-operation in the face of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic saying that disease, like poverty and climate change, respects no borders.

The President also stressed the need for empathy and thought for those who are more vulnerable. To the many Irish who left for the UK in either the 50s or the 80s, he asks them ‘to continue to take the greatest care at this time, to follow advice’.

He also said that the future after Covid-19 will be ‘radically different’ from what we have known and finished off by saying, ‘These are difficult times, but times that will pass’.

President Michael D Higgins’ full statement reads: “To all the Irish in Britain, I send my warmest greetings, as President of Ireland, at this most difficult time.  

“It is a time of great concern for all of us, of anxiety for the most vulnerable, and a time in which it is more important than ever for us to work together, demonstrate solidarity and take all the extra steps that are necessary to look after one another as we respond to the threat of Covid19.  

“As President of Ireland I have no doubt that the Irish people, wherever they are, will respond to the current crisis with actions that will bring us closer together.  

“Already we have seen many instances where people have come to the assistance of vulnerable members of their communities, and I am heartened by the expressions of solidarity that include a care and concern for all members of our extended Irish family, irrespective of borders, geographic location, or age categories.

“That capacity for empathy and co-operation that forms the very heart of an understanding of our shared Irishness is being drawn upon and encourages me in my belief in the resilience and sense of belonging that exists among all members of our global Irish family.  

“There is no doubt that the current pandemic will have a major impact on all of us, both in the short term, as we are asked to make significant changes in the behaviour of our everyday lives, and of course in the medium and longer term, with people’s sources of income and support being threatened.

“As President, I am following daily the impact the crisis is already having, particularly on those who are most vulnerable or marginalised, and am also acutely aware of the threats, and the possibilities, in terms of economic, financial and social outfalls.  

“The future that will come after this virus will be radically different from what we have experienced before.  

“It is my sincere hope that we will be able to develop in parallel both an inclusive immediate response to the pandemic and an adequate, comprehensive approach to the underlying challenges associated with the growing inequalities and environmental devastation inherent in our current models of connection between economy, society and ecology. 

“The coronavirus reminds us that poverty, disease and climate change are global phenomena, which do not respect man-made borders.  

To address these global challenges, we need international cooperation and solidarity.  

“Now is the time for more, not less, multilateral coordination and assistance, and for a reinforcing of our bonds.

“As President of Ireland, may I thank all the members of the Irish community in Britain, whether by birth or by association, for their efforts.

“I am particularly thinking of our elderly Irish at this time 

“Between 1955 and 1960, a quarter of a million Irish people left Ireland for the UK and again in the 1980s when, with others, I was associated with the Action Group for Irish Youth, at a time of social welfare and housing cuts.  

“May I also ask you all to continue to take the greatest care at this time, to follow advice, and retain a sense of patience and commitment to the core values of a shared citizenship.  

“These are difficult times, but times that will pass.  

“Let us all make sure that we will be able to look back at this dark period with pride in the actions we took, and the acts of kindness and solidarity we chose to undertake.

“All of us now must realise that social distancing – keeping a physical distance of no less than 2 metres or 6.5 feet – is one of the best measures we have to protect our people from Covid-19.

“I would appeal to those who have found these measures difficult, to simply begin again during this crucial week and to go further.

“The language we use is now even more important than ever. The most vulnerable should be described as just that, more vulnerable than the rest of us, and appropriate for special care.

“This can be done by strengthening rather than weakening both the bonds of connection with those at risk and also help retain their valuable participation in society.”

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