|Irish President Higgins Encourages Ethics
By Michelle Boyle
D. Higgins, the ninth president of Ireland, presented a thought-provoking
lecture followed by an open dialog to a sold-out hall at the Drake Hotel
in Chicago on May 12. Elected in November, 2011, by 1,007,104 votes. he
gained more votes than any other Irish politician in the Republicís history.
In Chicago, Higgins lectured on a new initiative encouraging more comprehensive
ethics within the realm of economic education at both a university and
global level. His lecture covered such diverse topics as economics, history
and environmentalism. He launched his lecture stating, "I am concerned
with the harmful separation of the discipline of economics from its ethical
and philosophical foundations."
He spoke of overcoming assumptions that the studies of economics and
environmentalism are divergent fields but rather they are interdependent.
In his summary, Higgins drove home his heartfelt message, "It is my profound
conviction that this time, we will need to give centrality to rethinking
our relations to the natural world, a dimension which has long been a blind
spot of western thought. There is little more pressing than the need to
provide new ideas linking economics ethics and environmental sustainability."
Following his well-received lecture, the president welcomed questions
from the audience. He deftly addressed a potentially inflammatory question
regarding a recent political incident in the north of Ireland. He spoke
of the importance of moving beyond the past. "You have to seek to be fair
in the way you try to balance facing the past, rejecting amnesia, but at
the same time trying to do it in such a way that you are able to go on
and live in the present and have a peaceful future. That's where we are
and we're working at it."
Higgins visibly warmed to a question asked by Patrick Boyle, Executive
director of Milwaukee Irish Fest, regarding how the current economic crisis
has affected Irish culture, specifically in the gaeltachts, Irish
speaking communities. Formerly serving as Ireland's first minister for
Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht from 1993 to 1997, Higgins promoted the
Irish language and social and economic development in Irish speaking communities.
Responding to Boyle, Higgins said, "While banking in one bank really
might have damaged our reputation internationally, the cultural community
and cultural product and cultural practice has never done anything but
add to Ireland's reputation everywhere. It's something that knows no boundaries,
something that is quite global and has given us enormous advantages and
Higgins provided an optimistic, forward-thinking reflection of his country's
prospects as it slowly, but surely, pulls itself from its economic crisis.
Yet, with all of his future focus, his feet are firmly grounded in the
past, striving to do service to the people who have made huge sacrifices
in Ireland's troubled past and who have paved the way to a more peaceful
and prosperous future.