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Higgins: Coronavirus crisis is opportunity for society 'to do things better' in future

President Michael D Higgins has said the coronavirus crisis is an opportunity for the world and s...
Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

10.02 27 Mar 2020


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Higgins: Coronavirus crisis is...

Higgins: Coronavirus crisis is opportunity for society 'to do things better' in future

Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

10.02 27 Mar 2020


Share this article


President Michael D Higgins has said the coronavirus crisis is an opportunity for the world and society to “do things better” in the future.

He said the world can't "drift into some notion that we can recover what we had and that that would be sufficient".

President Higgins was speaking as coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise in the Republic.

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Last night, health officials confirmed 10 more people diagnosed with the virus had died - a doubling of death toll in just 24 hours.

Speaking on the Pat Kenny Show, President Higgins expressed his deepest sympathies on behalf of the Irish people to the families of those who have died.

Noting that Irish people have been "responding wonderfully" to the current crisis, he observed: “I think it is a very hard time - harder than usual because of how the expression of grief is curtailed by the arrangements that have to be there in the interests of people’s health and safety.

“I think we’re coming now to perhaps the biggest part of the test. Can we in fact continue and strengthen the efforts we have been making? That’s, I think, very very important.

He welcomed last night’s nationwide applause and cheers for healthcare workers, and said that our frontline staff are “taking personal risk in the interest of our collective welfare and health and safety”.

He also noted the importance of those who do the “basic jobs that enable society to function - the people who are driving supplies, the people who produce food, the people who arrange for it to go on the shelves… the people who do all of the things that maybe we have taken for granted”.

"Wonderful opportunity to do things better"

President Higgins criticised some of the international response to the crisis to date.

He suggested the US response so far has seen 'corporate benefits exceed the ordinary families'.

However, he also claimed the European Central Bank “wobbled at first”, observing that “releasing an enormous amount of credit without having some idea of where it is going to lodge… [is] an insufficient instrument”.

President Higgins argued that while times are currently difficult, it provides an opportunity to re-evaluate the way things were before the current emergency.

He said: “When we come out of this we will not be going back to the insecurity of where we have before.

"We have learned lessons in relation to healthcare and equality… in relation to what is necessary in terms of income and the necessities of life.

“There will be a wonderful opportunity to do things better.

“This crisis will pass - but remember there will be other viruses. We can’t let ourselves be in the same vulnerable position again.

“There are opportunities for looking at the whole architecture of global finance and European finance.”

'Unanswerable case for having universal basic services'

The President said the current situation provides an opportunity to accept our collective responsibility in responding to climate change and sustainability, as well as taking responsibility for global poverty.

However, he also suggested that on the most basic level we should now examine “instincts we may have suppressed where individualism may have driven out a sense of the collective”.

He argued: “What’s going to emerge globally is the unanswerable case there is now… of having universal basic services… a floor of basic services that will be there to protect us in the future, but also from which we can depart to be able to enable people to have a sufficiency of what they need.

“This is what happened after the wars, after the Great Recession in 1929… we need the best of thinking, and we may have to lay aside a lot of the assumptions and critically examine them to be able to take advantages out of this.

“We can’t drift into some notion that we can recover what we had and that that would be sufficient - that game is over.”

Main image: File photo of President Michael D Higgins. Picture by: Andrew Surma/SIPA USA/PA Images

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