He promised to be President for all – and noted he had a huge mandate to deliver his vision over the next seven years.
Updated 13 hours ago
MICHAEL D HIGGINS has been sworn in to begin his second term as President of Ireland in a ceremony this evening at Dublin Castle.
The Presidential Standard was raised simultaneously at the castle and at Áras an Uachtaráin to mark Higgins entering the office.
He was sworn in by Chief Justice Frank Clarke before signing the Declaration of Office at St Patrick’s Hall.
In a break with tradition, the ceremony was moved to a 6pm start to allow Government officials to attend events marking the centenary of the end of World War One earlier.
The Taoiseach – who was in Paris earlier for Armistice commemorations – and other politicians arrived ahead of President-elect Higgins, and the upper courtyard of Dublin Castle was lit up with floodlights as the evening’s proceedings played out.
Former presidents Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, and defeated presidential candidates Peter Casey, Sean Gallagher and Joan Freeman were also amongst the guests.
Soprano Celine Byrne and members of traditional band The Gloaming were among the musical artists to perform at the ceremony.
The swearing-in was preceded by a brief inter-faith service. Leaders of the various Christian churches, in addition to representatives from the Jewish and Islamic faiths, all addressed the hall – as did a member of the Humanist Association of Ireland.
The Taoiseach then asked the Chief Justice to read the Declaration of Office to the President-elect.
Uachtarán @michaeldhiggins – signs the declaration read to him by the Chief Justice and receives his Presidential seal of office. #inauguration pic.twitter.com/bZMv6kfD1g
There was an ever-so-slight fluffing of his lines from Higgins as he began his responses to Justice Clarke – but the rest of the interaction proceeded as normal, and Army trumpeters sounded a fanfare after the newly sworn-in President signed his declaration.
The Taoiseach gave a brief speech, interrupted by applause several times, before President Higgins rose to give his own address.
Leo Varadkar, noting the reason the ceremony had been moved to the evening, said Higgins had the “values, sensitivities, and understanding” to appropriately represent Ireland as the decade of centenaries continued.
There was applause for Sabina Higgins as Varadkar paid tribute to “a wonderful partner and ambassador for Ireland at home and abroad over the past seven years”.
Varadkar also congratulated the couple’s children and there was – after a scattering of laughter – applause too for the presidential dogs.
Clocking in at around 20 minutes, the President delivered his inauguration speech in his typical upbeat, determined-sounding style.
He promised to be a President for all the Irish people – whether they had supported him or not.
Touching on his themes from the election campaign, he said he was offering a vision for the next seven years of “commitment to equality, to strong sustainable communities, to the sharing of history and the shaping of future together; recognising our vulnerabilities, drawing on and enhancing our individual and collective capacities”.
The electorate, he observed, had given him a “huge mandate” to deliver that vision.
The speech touched on an extensive array of themes, including: tackling poverty, improving diversity, sustainability, challenging violence against women, the country’s relationship with the UK and confronting xenophobia and hate.
The ceremony ended with the national anthem, and the President and his wife then descended the steps into the hall to be greeted by their adult children.
Outside, groups of schoolchildren from across the island of Ireland greeted President and Sabina Higgins in the castle courtyard.
The President conducted a brief inspection of the Guard of Honour before being driven back to the Áras under escort from the army’s 2nd Cavalry Squadron.
The President and his family were due to attend a State Reception in his honour back at Dublin Castle later tonight.