Never one to deliver a bland address, Irish President Michael D Higgins’ speeches are poetic, remarkable, and compelling.
Now in a new book, When Ideas Matter: Speeches for an Ethical Republic, the President has released a collection of his speeches, spanning the Irish Famine, the Easter Rising 1916 and Irish migration, amongst other themes.
Inaugurated in 2011, Mr Higgins won the Irish presidential election by more than a million votes.
“When you are a directly elected president, like I am, you bring to it what your life has been,” the President said at the London launch of his book at the Embassy of Ireland.
“Some of my very distinct predecessors were interested in legal theory and constitutional reform,” he said. “So what I really bring is a certain kind of academic interest.”
“But also an experience I had felt of migration and movement and, if you like, the view from below,” President Higgins added.
“It’s a great privilege to be President of Ireland.”
Scroll down for some of President Higgins’ best quotes on the Irish abroad…
What the President of Ireland has to say about the Irish experience abroad…
British Life enriched by the Irish
During the 1950s, around half a million Irish men and women made the journey to Britain, my sisters among them.
When we think of the circumstances in which these earlier generations of Irish emigrants moved to Britain, it is a joy to note that there is virtually no aspect of British civic or political life that has not been enriched by contributions from the Irish community.
That success is due in no small part to the determination and character of those who settled here in more difficult times.
The migrant voice
Because our migrant experience was invisible – and the voice of the migrant was rarely captured – we easily overlook it and its distinctive concerns and cadences can often be lost to us.
So many in both of our nations are, as a result of migration, neither fully British nor fully Irish.
Pride in Irish ancestry
When the children and grandchildren of migrants take pride and inspiration in their past, that can help unlock new potential in society.
The growing pride felt by those of Irish ancestry in Britain and those of British ancestry in Ireland will be a source of energy, inspiration and vigour for society.
The experience of migration can never be understood simply by describing the place of origin or the place of arrival.
Migration is above all else, about transience and all the uncertainties that go with it. In the act of migration itself, imagination is infinite and the circumstances of the migratory move finite – creating a world of contradictions.
Given securities are surrendered, and the search for personal significance is negotiated in strange conditions, and with strangers, something for which there can only ever be partial preparation.
The men who built Britain
In the 1960s, in Manchester and across Britain, monuments to the labour of Irish workers could be seen in the cities and throughout the countryside, especially the motorways but also on the building sites where Irish tradesmen and labourers were often the backbone of the workforce.
The phrase ‘the men who built Britain’ was more than an idle boast. It was a statement of pride in the reputation for industry and capacity for hard work earned by our people.
About the President…
Michael D. Higgins has been President of Ireland since 2011.
He was born in Limerick, and educated at University College Galway, where he later taught sociology and political science.
He was Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht from 1993 to 1997.
President Michael D Higgins was the first Irish president in the history of the state to attend a state dinner in Britain in April 2014.
He stayed as a guest of the Queen at Windsor Castle and addressed both Houses of Parliament.
When Ideas Matter: Speeches for an Ethical Republic features 35 speeches of President Higgins, and is available from Amazon.