President Higgins: COVID has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable and marginalised

Michael D Higgins also called on the Irish State to lead by example in the battle against climate change.

An older man wearing glasses speaks to a camera

The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, has described how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the most vulnerable and marginalised in society, also highlighting the problems facing tenants in the rental markets and how key workers are underpaid.

While delivering the keynote address at the Engineers Ireland conference on climate action, President Higgins explained, “There is no doubt that the spread of the COVID-19 virus has had a profound impact on all our lives, and many have lost loved ones, lost their livelihoods, or have seen their lives altered in dramatic ways. And all of us have had to come to rely on the solidarity of others, in a renewed awareness that no one will be safe from the virus until every one of us is.

“And just as the virus has so forcefully underlined our mutual dependence, it has also served as a powerful reminder that crises do not affect everyone in the same way. And as is the case with so many crises, including climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted on those most vulnerable, and those most marginalised.”


President Higgins continued, “COVID-19 has magnified the shortcomings of our failed paradigm of economy with all its imbalances, inequities and injustices. The pandemic has demonstrated a renewed demand from the citizenries of the OECD, indeed the citizens of the globe, for a new economic order.

“This is evident through the response to COVID-19, the burden of which fell to the State, and proved, if proof were required, that the State has the ability to play a leading, transformative role in crisis management and response; that the public sector has the capacity and expertise to deliver quality universal services to its citizens and do so effectively and fairly; that government can act decisively when the will is there. 

“Yet the crisis has also shown us how so many of our citizens and their families are only ever one wage payment away from hardship; how the self employed or workers in the so-called ‘gig’ economy lack security and are often impeded from access to basic employment rights; how private tenants in under-regulated housing markets are at the mercy of their landlords; how many designated ‘key workers’, those providing essential services, are shamefully undervalued and underpaid.”


In regard to the fight against climate change, President Higgins stated, “All of us, individuals, communities and professions alike, are asked to take ownership of the commitment to tackle climate change if we are to succeed in our low-carbon transition for our economy and our society. This is not optional. We, all of us as citizens, have a moral obligation to play our part in this great societal challenge.

The President continued, “The time to act is now. The longer we wait, the more we intensify and perpetuate the injustice of climate change, and we run the risk of correctly being regarded by future survivors of our planet as having been in collusion with the destruction of the lives and life-worlds of some of the most vulnerable peoples of our human family and the biodiversity on which our planetary life depends.”

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