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Welcome remarks to Mr Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland

Welcome remarks to Mr Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland
Strasbourg, Tuesday 26 January 2015

Mr President, Mrs Higgins,

It is an immense honour for me to welcome you in the Chamber of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which brings together members of parliament from all over Europe to support Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law.

Mr President, during your long and rich career as a politician, poet, sociologist, author and broadcaster, you have shown enormous commitment to these values. Therefore, your visit to Strasbourg is highly symbolic.

As we are facing numerous challenges in terms of respect of Human Rights in Europe and worldwide, we have to draw strength from the values that underpin the foundations of the Council of Europe.

In your address to the European Parliament two years ago, you rightly stressed that the Founding Fathers of today's Europe "sought not only to replace war with peace, but more importantly, to construct a vision of Europe's people working together in an inclusive way". Our Assembly is an attempt to make this vision a reality with democratically elected politicians representing 820 million Europeans working together to protect and promote our common historic, intellectual and cultural heritage.

To succeed, we need the support of all member states and political forces across the Continent. In this context, Ireland's commitment to our values is exemplary, be it the provision of support to human rights defenders, the promotion of social justice and solidarity, or the development of North-South dialogue and assistance to our neighbours who strive to build democratic societies.

But, what is even more important is the commitment of individuals and leaders who speak out, with courage, passion and determination for Human Rights and Democratic principles. It is no doubt for this reason that you were voted President with more votes than any other Irish politician in the past. You are not afraid of controversy. You warned that Ireland was "sleepwalking into disaster" with its high youth unemployment rates. I wonder what warning you might have for us ?

You are not a stranger to this Assembly having been a member from 2001 to 2003. Therefore, we are very much looking forward to hearing your address which I have no doubt will be a major source of inspiration for us as individuals and for our work.

Mr President, Mrs Higgins,

"A uachtaran (uchtaron)

Céad míle fáilte romhat"

(Mr President, a hundred thousand welcomes)