President Higgins’ DCU speech sparks debate

President Michael D. Higgins urged people not to forget their ethics as they start to rebuild following the economic crash in a speech given in DCU last month.

During the speech, President Higgins said that the events of the past few years have shown that economics should be regarded as a craft rather than an exact science.

He also suggested that philosophy be introduced as a leaving cert subject, in order to enhance the ethical understanding of younger people.

Many have welcomed the President’s remarks, supporting his view that economics can be a narrowly-focused profession that may not serve the wealth of human beings as a whole.

However, some have hit out at President Higgins, claiming that he is using his political position to support a liberal agenda.

Writing in The Irish Times, Dan O’Brien said that the President’s speech “was highly ideological and one-sided. It exclusively extolled left-of-centre thinkers, including some quite extreme figures.”

The President also called for efforts on combating poverty and economic inequality to be brought to the heart of public action.

However, O’Brien believes “this a thinly-veiled and highly-political accusation that previous governments and/or society generally once shared that commitment, but have since moved away from it. The claim is as nonsensical as it is unsubstantiated.”

O’Brien concluded by saying that “the President is moving into dangerous territory with his increasingly politicised and partisan interventions. He should think carefully about where the path he appears intent on taking will lead his presidency.”

The President has been criticised numerous times in the past for expressing a political view, with sceptics saying that as a figurehead of the Irish state he should refrain from taking a public stance on political issues.

However President Higgins has his supporters, with an opinion piece in the Irish Independent noting that “overall, coming at a time when we find continuing hopeful signs of economic recovery, the President’s words are well worth contemplating.”

In an interview after the lecture, the President re-affirmed his support of education, as well as calling on those forced to emigrate to stay in touch with home with the hope of one day bringing their skills back to Ireland.

He also encouraged a broad education for young people saying “I think that those who plan education as meeting the slots that are indicated at a particular time in economic history have got it very wrong.”

The speech was given as part of the ‘Ethics for All’ series run by the college.

Sean Defoe

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