Dear friends here in Ireland and around the world, As President of Ireland, Uachtarán na hÉireann, it is my pleasure to send you my warmest wishes for a peaceful, as well as a happy Christmas and New Year.
The Christmas period is a special period for all of us. It is a time of celebrations, of closeness and of hope. A time, too, to focus on the message contained in the story of a child in the manger, born to parents without a home, and reliant on the hospitality of strangers. This story should resonate to us in our present world and circumstances, holding as it does a message for all of us, regardless of our circumstances or faith: A message of challenge to moral action, one of optimism in our capacities for a new beginning, and it is a message of peace.
As this year ends and a new one begins, the dream of ‘Peace on Earth’ can seem very distant. In the past year, we have witnessed horrific violence and suffering in countries such as Syria, Yemen and Iraq but also closer to home in Istanbul, Nice, Brussels and in so many other towns and cities.
Internationally, ever more children, women and men are on the move, living precarious existences in the refugee camps of the world, as conflict and disasters continue to force people to flee, flee from their homes. The humanitarian situation of millions of vulnerable people is still awaiting an adequate global response. The circumstances of the birth of Christ, with its forced migration, homelessness and powerlessness, are being re-enacted for us the world over, in the conditions of migrants - including infants and children - as they wait, not knowing what the future will hold for them.
Many people in Ireland are also worried about the future. It is a time of uncertainty at home and across the European Union, where life has been a struggle at an economic and social level. And now new forces seek to exploit old divisions or create new ones, utilising even the hate of racism and ethnic exclusion. In the past year, a special year of commemoration and reflection, we have been reminded of how precious our freedom is.
We commemorated how one hundred years ago a small group of women and men set in train a series of events that ultimately led to an independent State. In doing so, we celebrated elements of our past that can provide us with a lasting source of pride and confidence, as well as a compass for the future. We also reflected on aspects of our history that had been forgotten, evaded or even downplayed.
As we now face into a new year we are challenged to embrace the new. We need courage to depart from what has not served us well, and we need the inspiration to make new connections with each other and with the vulnerable planet on which we live. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu reminded us that ‘A person is a person through other people’.
This fundamental awareness of the importance of our love for – and dependence on – each other should inform all our plans and actions, and should give us the wisdom to generate new models and new policies that will ensure inclusive action at home and abroad. Our solidarity is the heart beat of our society. Our bonds are stronger than we think, and stronger than that which at times divides us.
The complex world in which we live challenges us, but it does not pose greater challenges than those faced and overcome by previous generations, or by brave movements of the oppressed in world history. My wish, at this Christmas of 2016, is that, together, we will continue to seek to build the true republic of which our forebears dreamt, embracing the values, possibilities and responsibilities contained in that dream. I wish each and every one of you a blessed and happy Christmas and a New Year of restored hope and faith in Ireland’s future. Beir Beannacht.