THE PRESIDENT of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, has issued a heartfelt message offering the “warmest Christmas greetings” to the country’s “extended Irish family across the world”.
President Higgins’s message is especially poignant this year, given that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has left many families separated at what would have traditionally been a time for loved ones to come together.
The message this year was a simple one: you are not alone.
He said “Wherever you may be, and in whatever circumstances, as Ireland’s global family connected by our shared Irishness, its culture, heritage and history, it is a privilege to send greetings on what has been a difficult year for all of us, but some more than others.”
President Higgins acknowledged that “Christmas this year will, by necessity, be a different Christmas to that with which we are familiar.
“At this time of year, it has long been the practice of workers, friends and families to gather together to socialise and celebrate,” he said.
“So many friends and family from abroad looked forward to returning home to catch up on family and local news and of course to experience and share the excitement and joy that, for so many, Christmastime represents.
“Regrettably, so many of these traditional Christmas activities will not take place in 2020, or will have to be severely curtailed, owing to COVID-19. This is yet another disappointment to be added to the personal, social, economic and indeed cultural consequences of a pandemic that has resulted in so much tragedy since it enveloped the world earlier this year.”
However, he called on the Irish around the world to strive to make this a Christmas to remember for other reasons, describing the idea of having “a Christmas of resonance” that we would “remember in the future.”
“With a little imagination and goodwill, we can all make Christmas 2020 a Christmas to remember for all the right reasons. I suggest we do so on the basis of good citizenship.”
President Higgins continued: “This Christmas presents us with an opportunity to make a profound reflection on the importance of strengthening our determination to continue with our efforts to take care, to suppress the virus and, in doing so, demonstrate solidarity with our essential workers and with each other.”
“The principles that guide us in our renewed commitment can be sourced in those fundamental values that represent the best of ourselves, such as solidarity, care, compassion, kindness, sensitivity. These values have been generously demonstrated by so many of our citizens over the past year as the public health crisis unfolded.”
The President of Ireland also sought to acknowledge the devastating impact Covid-19 had had on lives in any number of ways.
“We continue to share the grief of those who have lost loved-ones, and share the anguish of those whose lives and livelihoods that have been impacted adversely.
“We feel for the loneliness being experienced by those who have been separated from contact with those who previously sustained them. This is all the more poignant at Christmastime.
“We must acknowledge, too, that for so many the loss of the social, economic and recreational practices that were their links to life in its rich totality is near devastating. We must encourage each other and draw strength from that.”
He also called on the public to “embrace all of our responsibilities as global citizens, and to work with fellow citizens across all continents for a more equal, just and sustainable world.”
“A world that, with all our endeavours, can reject violence in all its forms, and redoubles its efforts to end global poverty, exploitation and exclusion,” he added.
President Higgins signed off with a plea for the Irish Diaspora to remember the true meaning of Christmas this year.
“Yes, 2020 has been a gruelling year for all of us and a tragic year for so many, but let us recall that, while it is important never to forget that Christmas marks the birth of Jesus Christ, it also marks the beginning of longer, lighter days, and is thus a powerful symbol of hope, a beacon of better days to come,” he said.
“May I wish all those who share this island, be they Irish people by birth or descent, or those who have a connection with Ireland, wherever they may be in the world, and all those fellow global citizens who are friends of Ireland, a happy and peaceful Christmas.”