In a speech marking Roma Holocaust Memorial Day in which the President’s wife at times became emotional, she also spoke about the need to integrate our children to help prevent the spread of “anti-immigrant narratives”.
“The politics of hate, fear and otherness must be rejected and in its place, we must strive for inclusion, mutual respect and ethics,” said Mrs Higgins.
“We must acknowledge that which makes us different and strive to learn from each other to better understand each other and care for each other.”
She was speaking in Dublin’s Mansion House yesterday on Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, which has been celebrated annually on August 2 since 2011.
Mrs Higgins referred to the rise of far-right politics and how it has produced challenges such as Islamaphobia.
“The recent rise in right-wing neo-fascism parties in Europe has brought about a reawakening of that anti-Roma sentiment along with anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia and anti-emigrant narratives,” Mrs Higgins said.
The long-time human rights activist said that discrimination was overcome through “education, mutual respect, and love”.
In an Irish context, Mrs Higgins referred to “integrated education” as a step to take towards a more inclusive society.
“Integrated education of our children, I think, is a necessary, necessary step along that way,” she said
It is estimated that, of the millions of people killed by the Nazis during the Second World War, 500,000 of them were Romas, despite this not being officially recognised until 1982.
“We must never allow ourselves to forget. We must remember,” she said.