As President of Ireland may I send you my warmest wishes for a peaceful and a Happy Christmas and New Year.
Christmas signals a time of light and hope, a time when we move beyond the Winter Solstice, "An Grianstad", and perhaps begin to anticipate the longer days of light to come.
It is also a time when we can all reflect on its central theme – the story of Mary and Joseph seeking refuge in Bethlehem for themselves and their unborn child, and being repeatedly told that there was ‘no room at the inn’.
Here in Ireland, we have our own long history of emigration, of movement, of journeys of leavings and exile.
At this time of year we recall with pride, not only the contribution our diaspora make to the culture and life of their new homes, but also we remember those Irish who may be experiencing a sense of loss of belonging, away from their origins, loved ones, and who are hurting at this time. It is right that we think of them, and not only at Christmas.
The generous contributions received from our emigrants during times of great poverty and hardship for our people were key to the constructing of an Ireland that might become one of hope and opportunity, one in which a younger generation could hope to flourish and realise new possibilities.
That is a very important chapter of our history and one we must never forget. Today many people turn to us, their fellow global citizens, for protection and shelter for themselves and their families, and for the provision of hope for a better future. Do we dismiss them from our door, telling them there is no room at our inn, or do we greet them in a spirit of hospitality bearing in mind the history of emigration that is such a defining characteristic of the Irish people?
We face many challenges that will draw on the best of our courage and determination. Throughout 2019 the need for collective action against climate change and biodiversity loss became ever more evident. The year has ended with a clear message from scientists that we must do much more to avoid catastrophe. It was uplifting to witness our younger generation demonstrate their willingness to play their part in the collective action that is necessary.
Governments have a key role in leading the necessary change. However, if we are to succeed in meeting this greatest challenge we must all act as a global community.
What may seem small individual actions can make a big impact cumulatively on our carbon emissions. Therefore, as we begin a new year, let us determine to reduce our carbon footprint and become more aware of how our actions can damage our planet’s fragile biodiversity.
This is an issue of justice for the future generations who will inhabit our planet. Fostering a sense of justice, developing a consciousness of a shared humanity, one that will compel us to reconnect our lives through a balanced relationship between ecology, ethics, economics, culture and a lived experience of fulfilment is surely a commitment worthy of making this Christmas, which ends a year during which we have been asked to face so many challenges.
So, as we leave behind the dark days of mid-Winter, and move towards a season of new beginnings and new possibilities, let us do so with courage and a real will to walk in solidarity with those who are vulnerable in Ireland and across the world. It is that solidarity has always given strength to the beating heart of our society, seeking to draw from all that is best about our Irishness and thus helping us to meet the challenges of the complex world in which we live.
I wish each and every one of you a peaceful and happy Christmas and a New Year of hope and possibility.
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