President Michael D Higgins called for people to ‘journey forward in a spirit of hope and solidarity’ in his Christmas message to Irish people all around the world when he also spoke of the grief of those who have lost people as well those who have not been able to travel home to be with their loved ones for the festive period this year.
The full Christmas message reads: “Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, as President of Ireland, may I send each and every one of you greetings and my warmest wishes for a peaceful and Happy Christmas.
“What a year we have had, a year in which we have lost so many to this pandemic and during which the lives of so many of our people have been changed utterly as we made our shared efforts to protect each other.
“In 2020, as we came together to meet the challenge of a global pandemic, we were called on to undertake a demanding adjustment to our way of life, one that has required considerable resilience, self-sacrifice and compassion from us all.
“May I, as President, say how gratifying it has been to see the great expression of generosity that has been demonstrated throughout this difficult time.
“We all have been so fortunate, to have delivered for our welfare, countless examples of self-sacrifice on the part of essential workers, neighbours and family members, all doing their utmost to lessen the isolation and disruption that this year has brought.
“When we reflect on our recent experiences this Christmas this spirit of solidarity can be our guiding light as we proceed onwards towards a new year that will offer us our challenges but which we can approach with hope as a result of what we have been doing together.
“Working together on this project of controlling COVID-19, as it impinges on our lives, requires the best of us all. We need not only to speak the language of citizenship, but to deliver it and to share it, as we encourage each other to have a vision of the light that will surely come if we work as one, renewing and redoubling our efforts to suppress the Coronavirus.
“Invoking solidarity requires us, of course, to understand the vulnerability of others.
“For all of us, 2020 has been a challenging year. For vulnerable groups, however, the impact of Covid-19 has been greatly magnified.
“May I suggest that the compassion, care and empathy we extend to such groups will define how history will recall these times.
“We have learnt in recent months that kindness is a precious commodity reflecting a collective concern for all with whom we share a mutual space. We have seen so many examples of good citizens placing the common good above their own wants, making sacrifices as they think beyond the self in the protection of others.
“The Christmas story of a journey to Bethlehem is a founding story of a long and difficult journey, and is invoked as the source of a new dawn and the birth of a new and better world for all.
“Christmas has always signified a moment of hope, and the revival of hope, a moment to find encouragement, even in the most difficult and trying of circumstances.
“Today, we share in the grief of those who have lost loved-ones this year. We share, too, the pain of those whose lives and livelihoods have been changed, and who face uncertainty for the future, and we stand with our friends, family members and neighbours who have experienced isolation and being separated from those who previously sustained them.
“We also remember, this year, in a special way, the many who have been unable to travel to be with loved-ones but who, I know, will be connected in spirit during the festive season.
“Let us, however, continue to journey forward in a spirit of hope and solidarity. As we stand at a defining moment in our nation’s history, let us choose together how we wish to write this next chapter; how we wish to shape a new Ireland waiting to be born.
“It is an Ireland which can be the better for our reflection on what it is that we wish to value, an Ireland that can better address our shared existence, our shared vulnerability and our interdependence, all of our relationships.
“Today, as we move beyond the Winter Solstice towards the longer, warmer days to come, let us renew our sense of wonderful possibilities yet to be realised and resolve to journey forward in a spirit of solidarity, of sensitivity to memories to be recalled, and of forgiveness sought and offered so that together we can navigate our way safely and with joy towards that shared and brighter future.
“I wish you once again a Happy Christmas, and a New Year of hope and promise.
“Nollaig Shona daoibh go léir.