President Higgins visit to London, October 2016
On Friday 14 October 2016 Ambassador Mulhall hosted the launch of President Michael D. Higgins book of his speeches entitled ‘When Ideas Matter – Speeches for an Ethical Republic’ at the Embassy.
Later that evening, President Higgins gave a lecture on Irish poet and revolutionary, Eva Gore-Booth, at the headquarters of the Trade Unions Congress.
Ambassador Mulhall’s remarks welcoming the President and Sabina Higgins are below.
“It is a great honour for me, my wife Greta and my colleagues at the Embassy to welcome President Higgins and Sabina to the Embassy this afternoon.
It is always a huge privilege to have our President with us at the Embassy and it is fitting that his book of speeches 'When Ideas Matter' should be launched here today, for the second speech in this collection was delivered at Windsor Castle during the President's historic State Visit in April 2014. That occasion will never be forgotten by those of us who were privileged to serve at the Embassy at the time or by the Irish community in Britain.
Our President's speeches are special and deserve the widest possible audience and I wish to pay tribute to Neil Belton and Head of Zeus for making them available to the reading public.
Since coming to London, I have paid particular attention to the President's speeches on the topic of commemoration, which has been a major focus of mine during this centenary year of the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme.
I recall being present at Glasnevin Cemetery in July 2014 for the dedication of the Commonwealth War Graves Cross of Sacrifice and took careful note of the President's wise words that day, when he said:
'The time has come for us to embrace a kind of narrative hospitality to replace our past entrenchments .. Let us now, together, cultivate memory as a tool for the living and as a sure base for the future - memory employed in the task of building peace.'
Through my own reading and reflection, I had, I think, come to a similar view of the overlapping complexities of our past, but the clarity of the President's thoughts and the mint fresh manner of their expression definitely crystallised things for me and I have drawn inspiration from the President in my statements at commemorative events.
This year, at a symposium on 1916, the President commented that 'History and commemoration ... operate in different registers. Commemoration ... requires a dialectic between remembering and forgetting that is mediated through the prism of contemporary concerns.' Again, I took comfort and direction from those words.
This year's Commemorations - in Ireland and on the Somme - required careful handling and we can I believe look back with satisfaction on a well-spent period of remembering that leaves a positive legacy. At this time of national reflection, our President's speeches played a vital role in disentangling the knotted threads of remembrance and, to adapt Seamus Heaney's famous words, in 'making commemoration and history rhyme'.
Reading the President's speeches again in this handsome volume, I am reminded of how weighty and eloquent they are. If there were a literary prize for speeches, the President would be a worthy recipient!
I now hand over to the book's publisher, Neil Belton, who will say a few words and will be followed by the distinguished journalist and historian Dr Maurice Walsh”.