Michael D Higgins tells the UN 21st century poverty is "affront to humanity"

The President is on a five-day trip to the US

Michael D Higgins tells the UN 21st century poverty is "affront to humanity"

President Michael D Higgins addresses the UN General Assembly in New York | Image via @PresidentIRL on Twitter

The President Michael D Higgins has used his speech to the United Nations to criticise poverty and deprivation.

He was speaking in New York as part of a five-day trip to the US.

Addressing the UN General Assembly high-level meeting on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, he said: "It is an affront to humanity that, in these first decades of the 21st century, at a time when we have the capacity to abolish all forms of human poverty, we share a planet with hundreds of millions who are, even as we speak here today, deprived of their most fundamental rights, deprived of a dignified existence.

"Why have we resiled, I ask, to a politics of fear, rather than to the promise of the politics of possibilities?

"Is it not nothing less than a moral outrage that our boundless capacity for creativity and innovation, and the fruits of new science and technology, are turned, not to the promotion and preservation of peace, but to the pursuit and prosecution of war?".

President Higgins also used the opportunity to celebrate the Northern Ireland peace process.

"Ireland, the country I represent, knows from our own peace process which continues to this day that peace does not come without engaging with the experience of the other, that it remains a process to be nurtured.

"The Northern Ireland peace agreement, signed on Good Friday 20 years ago, demonstrates some of those conditions which you, Mr (General Assembly) President, have identified as essential for successful peacebuilding: direct engagement by the two governments involved in the negotiations; sustained financing for peacebuilding activities; strong support from the European Union; and generous and patient backing from other Members of the United Nations, most particularly from those with a connection to Ireland such as the United States."

"Yet while we celebrate the end of violence, the lives saved and the futures transformed, we are reminded daily of the challenges of sustaining peace."

"The (UN) Secretary-General and the agencies of the United Nations will only be successful in pursuing our common objective of sustaining peace, if we, the member states, re-commit ourselves to those founding principles, to which we dedicated ourselves so many years ago, and we must allow the new thinking and the new paradigms of critical thought we need, to emerge."

"Humanitarian actions must not any longer be allowed to serve as sufficient responses to crises that are political in their origins.

"Humanitarian action is not a substitute for political dialogue and mediation. Nor is the remarkable work of UN peacekeepers, whose service, including that of many Irish men and women over the past 60 years, whom I salute here today.

"UN peace support operations save countless lives, but they can only ever be but one element of a comprehensive response."

"If we are to truly commit ourselves to the objective of sustaining peace we must discard any narrow and cynical realism.

"The young of the world are appalled by any suggestion that what is normative is for the General Assembly and that the strut of the powerful and the wielders of power can prevail in the Security Council. That is what is losing the young."

On Wednesday April 25th, President Higgins will have a special meeting with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and also meet with the President of the UN General Assembly, Miroslav Lajcák.

This will be followed by a series of bilateral meetings with other heads of state and senior UN officials.

That evening, the President and Sabina Higgins will meet members of the Irish community in New York.

On Thursday April 26th, President Higgins will address an event highlighting the achievements of Irish women in business, politics and philanthropy, taking place in the context of the Ireland Funds' 'Women In Leadership’ series.

On Friday April 27th, he will meet with invitees of Irish State agencies Enterprise Ireland, Tourism Ireland, IDA Ireland and Culture Ireland.

On the final day of his visit on Saturday, he will meet representatives of immigration and community centres working in the Greater New York area - followed by a visit to Rockland GAA, the largest GAA club outside Ireland.