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Message from President Michael D. Higgins for Culture Night 2020

National Concert Hall, Dublin, 18 September 2020

As proud Patron of our wonderful RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, may I send my best wishes to all those gathered, virtually as we are, yet having the privilege of enjoying tonight’s performance.  May I, on all our behalf, thank the National Concert Hall and the Symphony Orchestra for enabling, through this performance, our continued access to the cultural space on this special night, particularly in the challenging times we are currently facing.

Time and again, across recent months, it has been greatly inspiring and indeed reassuring to witness the many imaginative and inventive ways in which our artistic community has ensured that outlets for cultural engagement remain available. It has been a profound demonstration of the great breadth of the cultural space.

Tonight is such an example. Despite the many miles and perhaps oceans that may separate us, we are joining together in a shared cultural space for a musical experience. Throughout this most challenging of contemporary moments the arts have continued to demonstrate their rich capacity to unite people across boundaries and barriers, creating strong and durable connections that never fail to enrich the lives of our societies, during times be it good or bad.

Indeed I was delighted, on 16th June this year, to host a virtual celebration of Bloomsday, which was enabled by talented performers and musicians that allowed us to mark and enjoy together that most significant date on Ireland’s artistic calendar.

The many cultural gatherings that have taken place, in myriad and creative ways, acknowledge the arts as a fundamental part of our lives in all generations, and remind us of how critical it is that we support our artists.

Earlier this year, conscious of the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on those who work in the performance of the arts and the institutions related to them I wrote to Heads of European Institutions regarding the importance of protecting the space of art and culture and those who work in it.

Our musicians, along with our writers, actors, choreographers, production staff at all levels and artists, with all their liberating potential, enriching vision and courageous challenging of the status quo, are an essential and cohesive force in society. It is they, for example, who never fail to speak of new possibilities, a world yet unknown, a future waiting to be born.

That is why, when the time comes to rebuild our society and our economy in the wake of the pandemic, we must ensure we are constructing an Ireland shaped to accommodate all artistic expression, and the livelihoods that make it possible.

On this Culture Night 2020, citizens around the country are rising to the challenge of a pandemic. They are joining together in many novel and creatives ways to celebrate our arts and our rich heritage. That is a remarkable and uplifting endorsement of the significant role that culture plays in our lives and ever more so in times of difficulty.

I wish all of you gathered for this unique event a most enjoyable evening.

Bain taithneamh as an oiche is beir beannacht.