President Michael D Higgins launches 2nd phase of Ethics Initiative


The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins today launched the 2nd phase of his Ethics Initiative at an event hosted by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

The President said that in a first phase of the Ethics Initiative he had invited Irish third level institutions and the Royal Irish Academy to contribute.  The positive answer Irish universities gave to that invitation, the many ideas they put forward, and their commitment to organise some 50 events over the course of this year – many of which have already taken place – was greatly encouraging.

He has therefore proposed that the next phase of this Ethics Initiative be brought to civil society organisations as an opportunity for critical and fresh thinking, which he hopes will, "contribute to harnessing and supporting the profusion of positive initiatives that exist in Irish society."

"The insight which Saint Vincent de Paul members have is a precious one. Day after day, you seek out the forgotten; you listen to the voices of the voiceless; you support those who have to cope with unemployment, indebtedness, a relationship breakdown, a disability, or loneliness, and sometimes several of these plights at once. Your knowledge can very productively inform, not just our collective discourse, but also the policies aimed at tackling poverty."

"All of us Irish people should be grateful for the quiet, sustained weekly work of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society’s volunteers. But we must also be challenged by their actions, rooted as they are in the conviction that the struggles of the marginalised are the struggles of society in general." he said.

President Higgins also said that values such as greed, self-interest, the insatiable pursuit of material gratifications, unrestrained competition, and the placing of the market as the centre of public policy for all human needs have become widely endorsed, with sweeping repercussions on policy making, media representations and, more generally, contemporary public discourse on what constitutes ‘prosperity’ and the good life.

"The risk, as I see it, is that if we do not tackle the assumptions that have inflicted such deep injuries on our moral imaginations, we will end up going back to “business as usual” – as many of those advocating acquiescent fortitude on “the road to recovery” would like us to do. There are signs already – on the housing market, on the credit markets – that such a return to 'business as usual' may be underway.

" Our citizens are anxious for a vision of where we are heading to as a society. Too many of them live in a unabated stress, dealing with financial circumstances that curtail their horizon and constrict them to a regime that is one of survival." he said.

He went on to say  that the Ethics Initiative is an invitation to volunteers, members and staff of charitable organisations to critically reflect on their own conceptions and practice. It is a call on all the civil society associations to join forces to voice the values that they wish to see placed at the heart of our collective future. I"t is an encouragement to you to compel us, your elected representatives, to listen to the voices of the most vulnerable in Irish society."

he concluded.

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