Irish and Scots must provide ‘ethical leadership’

Ireland and Scotland have been urged to play a key role in providing the “ethical leadership that is so needed at this moment in our history”.

President Michael D Higgins highlighted the importance of immigration to the two nations as he addressed MSPs at the Scottish Parliament.

His speech comes at a time when the UK is still coming to terms with last week’s vote to leave the European Union (EU), of which Ireland remains a member.

Meanwhile, continental Europe has been dealing with a stream of refugees fleeing from the conflict that has engulfed Syria and the Middle East.

President Higgins described Scotland and Ireland as being countries of “intermixed migrants whose shared existence owes more to the transience of our migrations than to the sedentary experience of possessions or property”.

He said: “If we imagine ourselves in the position of those currently fleeing war-torn Syria, or trapped in an unending cycle of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or in the position of future generations living in toxic and hostile environments, we could not acquiesce to inaction.

“For a long time, the Irish and the Scots found that our own people were forced to seek sustenance abroad.

“The strength and vitality of our diasporas today can be attributed to the bravery and indomitable spirit that motivated our ancestors to seek not only better lives for themselves and their families, but also to recognise the value of community and to appreciate the welcome they received on foreign shores.

“Perhaps, then, with our traditions and values, we might both be expected to play leading parts in showing the ethical leadership that is so needed at this moment in our history.”

Irish and Scots must provide ‘ethical leadership’

President Higgins stressed that elected politicians “must be unafraid to challenge outdated policies” and speak out against “inequalities which have ceased to shock us by how widespread and familiar they have become”.

A failure to do this could “leave a vacuum that will be exploited, usually by dangerous populisms in the street”, the President warned.

He added: “We are challenged to do democracy better rather than resile to old and divisive myths based on exclusion and often what is thinly-veiled hate or racism.”

President Higgins recalled the death of Labour MP Jo Cox, saying she “exemplified the best of principled public representative politics”.

President Higgins highlighted the “enormous potential for partnership and co-operation” between Scotland and Ireland, saying this was “grounded in the values that we share”.

“As two small, in population terms, yet highly-skilled countries with highly-skilled workers on the periphery of Europe, we share a belief that our combined resources, expertise and experiences can create a dynamism greater than the sum of our two economies.

“The potential for growing our work together is endless — in culture, in economic and social development, and in promoting the peace, stability and prosperity that have marked the transformative recent decades between these two islands.”

Irish and Scots must provide ‘ethical leadership’

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