PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has used his 2020 Easter address to share his feelings on the ‘abrupt changes to our way of life’ during the coronavirus outbreak and asked Irish people to place a light in their windows on the Saturday before Easter, to share our hope at this difficult period.
“This Easter 2020 is a challenging time for so many,” he said. “All of our Irish family, and particularly those abroad, are very much in the thoughts of loved ones during these difficult days, as we strive together to come to terms with the Coronavirus and its consequences.
“Over the past number of weeks, all of us have awoken abruptly to changes in our way of life. There is an uncertainty, anxiety and fear to be overcome as the Coronavirus takes hold in our communities. We have all been asked to take more restrictive measures in order to stop the spread of the virus—measures that would have been unimaginable just a few weeks ago and which have presented a challenge to our resolve, to our way of life, be it how we work or socialise with others.
“As the number of Coronavirus cases rises and the global death toll accumulates to shocking levels, it would be easy to become overwhelmed. Sabina and I are greatly aware of the pain and suffering so many of you are experiencing in different ways, we send our deepest sympathies to those who have been bereaved in recent days and weeks as a result of the pandemic, those who are ill, anxious and concerned. We know, too, how difficult it is in so many ways for those who would wish to be with loved ones for whom they are concerned, but whose protection requires that they stay at a distance.”
The President also underlined the importance of following medical advice to stay limit social contact as far as possible, and—most importantly—to stay at home.
“All of what we are asked to do now is about saving lives, slowing the spread of the virus, and caring in the ways that have been suggested to us by medical advice, until a vaccine emerges,” he reminded the Irish people.
A message for the diaspora
Speaking directly to the Irish diaspora he also called on them to support each other and the efforts in the countries where they have made their homes, by saying: “The Irish community abroad, which extends to some 75 million in its widest definition, is a community united by its roots to Ireland, but also by these shared values that our Irishness embodies.
“Sabina and I would like to convey the sympathy and solidarity of the Irish people at home to our wider global family, as we share together in our different places a response to this challenging crisis, a response that I believe will lead us towards a further strengthening of the values of empathy, compassion, inclusion and shared humanity, values that have always defined us as a nation, and which have been so much in evidence in recent weeks.
“Irish people have always made an enormous contribution to the nations in which they have settled, be it temporarily or permanently, and you continue to do so at this time of great need.”
Shining a light
His message concluded with the call for lights to be placed in the windows of Irish homes at this symbolic time for the Irish nation.
“In keeping with the Easter message of hope, Irish people are being asked to place a light in their window on the Saturday before Easter Sunday, a time so important in the symbolism of our Irish Independence,” he concluded. “Sabina and I will light lanterns and place these at the doors in Aras an Uachtaráin, symbolising our shared solidarity and offering a beacon of hope in a time of darkness.
“The days ahead may continue to be difficult, and for some I recognise they are more difficult than others, such as carers, but what a memory it will be, and legacy too, when the virus has passed to know that we gave of our best, and what a valuable memory it will be that we continued to save lives that would otherwise have been lost by co-operating and working with the measures suggested to us for the good of all.”
President Higgins had earlier sent a message of support and solidarity to the Irish in Britain, sharing his concern as their President for their health and safety and offering his best wishes to them at this time of unprecedented crisis.
“To all the Irish in Britain, I send my warmest greetings, as President of Ireland, at this most difficult time,” he had said.
“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.”