At a time when citizens of the UK and foreign nationals living in Britain have been more or less abandoned by the UK government's response to Covid-19, it might be comforting for Irish people living across the water to know that they have not been forgotten by people back here. President Michael D Higgins continued his proactive response to the crisis by today releasing a statement to Irish people in the UK.
“As President of Ireland, may I thank all the members of the Irish community in Britain, whether by birth or by association, for their efforts. I am particularly thinking of our elderly Irish at this time," he said.
Across the generations, Irish people have moved to Britain to seek out opportunity. That generation of Irish people who emigrated in the 1950s and 1960s are especially vulnerable to this disease, and President Higgins has let that older generation know that they're in his thoughts. We can only - for their sake and ours - hope that the wisdom of medical science reaches the ruling classes in Westminster and the potential disaster looming in the UK due to the 'herd immunity' approach can be scaled back.
You can read the statement in full below:
"To all the Irish in Britain, I send my warmest greetings, as President of Ireland, at this most difficult time. "
“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 Covid–19.
“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.
“There is no doubt that the current pandemic will have a major impact on all of us, both in the short term, as we are asked to make significant changes in the behaviour of our everyday lives, and of course in the medium and longer term, with people’s sources of income and support being threatened.
“As President, I am following daily the impact the crisis is already having, particularly on those who are most vulnerable or marginalised, and am also acutely aware of the threats, and the possibilities, in terms of economic, financial and social outfalls.
“The future that will come after this virus will be radically different from what we have experienced before.
“It is my sincere hope that we will be able to develop in parallel both an inclusive immediate response to the pandemic and an adequate, comprehensive approach to the underlying challenges associated with the growing inequalities and environmental devastation inherent in our current models of connection between economy, society and ecology.
“The coronavirus reminds us that poverty, disease and climate change are global phenomena, which do not respect man-made borders.
“To address these global challenges, we need international cooperation and solidarity.
“Now is the time for more, not less, multilateral coordination and assistance, and for a reinforcing of our bonds.
“As President of Ireland, may I thank all the members of the Irish community in Britain, whether by birth or by association, for their efforts.
“I am particularly thinking of our elderly Irish at this time.
“Between 1955 and 1960, a quarter of a million Irish people left Ireland for the UK and again in the 1980s when, with others, I was associated with the Action Group for Irish Youth, at a time of social welfare and housing cuts.
“May I also ask you all to continue to take the greatest care at this time, to follow advice, and retain a sense of patience and commitment to the core values of a shared citizenship.
“These are difficult times, but times that will pass.
“Let us all make sure that we will be able to look back at this dark period with pride in the actions we took, and the acts of kindness and solidarity we chose to undertake.”