President Michael D. Higgins has paid tribute to public service personnel for their service to the community in his Christmas and New Year message.
In his annual message, the President said the public should be mindful of those who maintain essential services during the festive season; the Gardaí, prison officers, Defence Forces, emergency services and medical staff.
He also offered his best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to “all the people of Ireland and to the members of the Irish family wherever they may be”.
“Christmas provides an opportunity for us all to pause, reflect, and celebrate the things that we rightly cherish. It is a time when we, as citizens, as families, and as communities turn our minds to what is really important – family, friendship, neighbourliness and homecoming.
“At Christmas we have an opportunity to renew our appreciation of these gifts, gifts which we hope will sustain us through the coming year.”
He added that at this time especially, those who are “fortunate enough to have a joyous Christmas should be mindful of the need to reach out to others who – due to loss, emigration, illness or financial circumstances are going through a difficult time”.
Many people are feeling the consequences of the contraction of Ireland’s economy in terms of employment or income, President Higgins said.
“However, our economic condition does not, on its own, define who we are. We are, for example, a country with a network of communities, that are increasingly active in responding to their own, and their society’s, difficulties,” he said, highlighting the importance of the Irish diaspora.
Reflecting on his year in office, the President said a major priority was to engage with and listen to young people, who he said have a very positive vision for the future of Ireland, and are determined to make their contribution to positive change.
“There is much to be proud of, and much to build on, as we prepare for the New Year and look forward with hope and courage to realising all the possibilities that it presents,” he said.
These possibilities include Ireland’s seventh Presidency of the European Union, which coincides with European Year of Citizens in 2013, and the opportunity that it represents to “renew the founding idealism of Europe – a Europe of citizens, of social solidarity, of cohesion, and of shared cultures”.
President Higgins wished all the Irish at home and abroad, and those who live and work with them, a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a New Year “full of promise, health and fulfilment.”