President Michael D Higgins has warned that Ireland is ‘sleepwalking into a nightmare’ as he launched a new drive to promote ethics across the country.
The Galway-born artist and politician has urged Irish society to tackle youth unemployment and inequality before it is ‘too late’.
Launching a series of seminars across Ireland on ethics, President Higgins again voiced his concerns at the direction the country is taking in the wake of the collapse of the Celtic Tiger.
He warned that the Irish public has been ‘numbed by breaches of trust’ due to the economic collapse.
The President also told the Irish Independent of an ‘urgent need’ across Ireland and Europe to debate how trust can be restored.
President Higgins said: “I believe this discourse is not only urgent in Ireland, but essential in Europe if we are not going to abandon the European dream, and allow extremes to be built on top of an exploitation of youth unemployment.
“We can’t sleepwalk into a nightmare. I think 100 years on from 1914, you could say that Europe sleepwalked into a terrible disaster that was the carnage of World War I. In exactly the same way, if you have a crisis of an economic and social kind, you can’t sleepwalk through that.”
The President added that repairing a system which had failed to deliver was not an option.
He said: “People now are a bit numbed, they’re numbed by the breaches in trust.
“We’re in a space where people ask the immediate question of how trust can be restored, and they also ask what kind of institutions can serve us best now.
“We’ve seen the return of emigration which is deeply distressing for many, even with modern communications where people can Skype each other. All of this means there’s a certain sense of numbness, of sleepwalking.
“It is simply not acceptable that we would drift on and attempt to repair something that has delivered such malignant results.
“I’d like when people go to speak of Ireland abroad, to be able to say that these are the people who are unique insofar as they are all discussing ethics. I believe it would be of enormous value.
“It’s also very consistent with our literary tradition, our peacekeeping tradition, with the best of our Irishness and I think it’s well worth it.”
The paper adds that the ‘Shaping Ireland’s Shared Future’ launched by the President follows his commitment when elected to open a public debate where the core values and concerns of society could be expressed. Over 50 debates will be held across the country.