Irish President joins the post-2015 debate

20/02/2013 at 7:59 am Leave a comment

(originally published on


On 18 February, President Michael D. Higgins also joined in the discussions on the “World We Want”.

In a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris, he said:

We are confronted in Europe with uniquely complex challenges.  But whatever the myriad responses that we must generate, at its heart the essential response lies in striving towards an open, politically engaged but questioning, socially and culturally aware, citizenship.

A citizenship that develops and protects the institutions that preserve the balance in society, that protect individual rights and fosters a sense of duty, responsibility, accountability – not the shallow deontological contractual duty of consequentialism, the narrow ethics discharged solely from obligation, – but a duty founded on respect and understanding.


This theme of active citizenship has been at the centre of Mr. Higgins’ Presidential tenure, and is also at the heart of the World We Want project.

We believe in the transformative potential of ‘people power’ the energy created when ordinary citizens organise themselves, and engage in collective action.

And we believe that such organised civic action adds up to a strong and vibrant ‘civil society’, which is far more than the ‘charity’sector that policy makers in Ireland keep referring to. ‘Charities’ are not just service providers, but they are an essential element in a healthy democracy. Civil society organisations are key for any attempt to find alternatives and solutions to the ails of society.

In his Paris speech, Michael D. also stressed the importance of tackling the bigger picture:

In a European Union where unemployment is our greatest problem and where youth unemployment is its most challenging feature, if we are to accept the need for intergenerational justice, we require an inclusive discourse, but it requires as a mere beginning, a realisation, an acceptance, that our global problems, in an ever more interdependent world, are neither amenable to any type of previous tested and failed technocratic response, nor are our challenges merely economic.

They are social, political and cultural.  Our existence, we must remind ourselves, is as social beings not as commodified consumers without a history, incapable of envisioning an alternative future.

President Higgins went on to quote Montesquieu:

“The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.”

Let that be our reminder to become active citizens, especially now.

Entry filed under: MDGs. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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