WATCH: President Higgins highlights homelessness and refugee crises in Christmas message

The Irish President has released his annual message from Áras an Uachtaráin

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President Michael D Higgins

8:56 20 Dec 2017 Stephen McNeice 08:56 Wednesday 20 December 2017

President Michael D Higgins has used his Christmas and New Year's message to highlight how the 'burden of homelessness' can overshadow the festive season for many people.

The Irish President has released his annual greeting as the latest homeless figures show that more than 8,800 people accessed emergency accommodation last month.

In his video message, President Higgins observes: "This Christmas, once again, the burden of homelessness will overshadow the festive season for those deprived of a secure and permanent shelter.

"We are challenged, I suggest, to turn this time of celebration into a sustained commitment of awareness and care for those for whom each day is an act of survival."

Elsewhere in the message, President Higgins thanks those who work "so tirelessly to support those in our society who are vulnerable", saying they shine "a light of hope into the lives of some of our most marginalised people."

He also asks people to reflect on the plight of refugees around the world, saying: "During 2017, we learned that 20 people are newly displaced every minute, forced to leave their homes, to seek refuge."

He adds: "The ongoing humanitarian crisis emanating from Rakhine State in Myanmar, with its many hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh reminds us vividly of what some communities face on their long and difficult struggle to find a rightful place in a peaceful society."

President Higgins also reflects on his experience of meeting Irish people abroad, including in Australia & New Zealand, and notes: "To those and all the Irish abroad, and in whatever circumstances, I send greetings."

He concludes: "May I also, mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, thank each and every one of you who are caring for our communities throughout the holiday season, and indeed as they do during the rest of the year, An Garda Síochána, the Prison Service, all of the staff in our hospitals and emergency services, and members of the Defence Forces serving abroad who are building or supporting peace.

"May I wish each and every one of you, wherever you may be, a peaceful and happy Christmas."

You can watch the Irish language version of the message below:

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