Michael D Higgins sworn in as Ireland's ninth President

 

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The Independent Online

Ireland's ninth President, Michael D Higgins, was sworn in as Head of State today and urged citizens at home and abroad to have hope and courage in rebuilding the Republic.

Mr Higgins, 70, was inaugurated at a ceremony in Dublin Castle where he used his maiden speech to set out the vision for his seven-year term.

President Higgins attacked the material individualism of recent years and urged a return to an older wisdom.

"Every age, after all, must have its own 'aisling' and dream of a better, kinder, happier, shared world," he said.

The veteran politician, a life-long Labour Party member, addressed scores of dignitaries in St Patrick's and evoked rebel leader James Connolly, saying that he believed that Ireland is a work in progress, a country still to be fully imagined and invented.

Mr Higgins had requested a moment of private reflection in the Connolly Room of Dublin Castle, named in honour of the 1916 rebel leader James Connolly.

The service, attended by former presidents Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, was marked by a Christian prayer service and blessings from the Islamic and Jewish faiths. There was also a moment of reflection for the humanist philosophy and secular aspects of Irish life.

During his campaign Mr Higgins spoke about the need to be more inclusive.

The Presidential Standard, blue with a gold harp, flew from Dublin Castle to announce the inauguration before a 21-gun salute was fired from the site of Collins Barracks.

President Higgins said his term in office would be about transformation, creativity, ideas and inclusion.

"The demands and rewards of building a real and inclusive Republic in its fullest sense remains as a challenge for us all, but it is one we should embrace together," he said.

The ceremony drew to a close as President Higgins inspected a Defences Forces' Guard of Honour in the courtyard of Dublin Castle made up of 107 officers.

Mr Higgins also met 350 schoolchildren of all ages invited from all parts of the country.

Children cheered as four Air Corps Pilatus aircraft flew low overhead in a diamond shaped formation.

The Army No 1 band played several tunes including Slattery's Mounted Foot, Galway Bay, Mise Eire and Finnegan's Wake.

Mr Higgins took time to greet well-wishers and schoolchildren gathered in the upper yard of the castle before being driven to Aras an Uachtarain, his home for the next seven years, in Phoenix Park, under military escort.

The new President was hosting a private lunch in the Aras for 90 guests including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, politicians, family, friends, judges and Mrs McAleese and Mrs Robinson.

There will be a state reception at Dublin Castle this evening.

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