Speech by Sabina Higgins for Holocaust Education Ireland Trust’s ‘Crocus Project 2021’
Áras an Uachtaráin, 14 October 2021
Good Afternoon, Adults & Children,
May I welcome you all to Áras an Uachtaráin today. We are honoured to have as special guests present today Holocaust survivors Suzi Diamond and her assistant Carolyn Collins, Tomi Reichental and Joyce Weinrib, along with Caryna Camerino, a third-generation survivor. May I also welcome staff from Holocaust Education Ireland Trust, and of course the 6th-class students from Hansfield Educate Together School, Clonsilla and their teachers. You are all so very welcome to the Áras.
The Crocus Project is an initiative that both the President and I find very powerful and very moving in its message. It is a message that must not be lost even in the conditions of our current circumstances, living as we are in times of the Covid-19 pandemic. Through the simple act of you young people planting yellow Crocus bulbs, we remember the 1.5 million Jewish children who suffered and perished in the Holocaust and the thousands of other children who were victims of Nazi atrocities.
The yellow of the yellow flowers recall the yellow Stars of David that Jews were forced to wear under Nazi rule. When people admire the flowers, as they surely will – the crocus being one of the very first flowers to emerge in the New Year – young people will have the opportunity to reflect on what they represent and recall with love and pity, the lost lives of the children who perished in the Holocaust.
It is on occasions such as today that we have an opportunity to reflect on human rights, the need for peace and a recognition of our interdependence, and of the need in our world, for an end to war.
The Covid pandemic has reminded us of our inter-connectedness as humans and has demonstrated how the great challenges we now face require a shared response that goes beyond any borders.
Xenophobic, racist and homophobic language must be called out for what it is an attack on the sacredness and dignity of every life, and on basic values of pluralism, openness, inclusivity and respect for diversity, of both peoples and cultures.
In international relations too we must ask can we accept the rhetoric, or renewed preparations for war, between the most heavily armed, as a substitute for engaged diplomacy.
The Crocus Project is about reminding us of what diplomatic failure can mean and its bad consequences. We know that, at its worst, it can result in violent conflict, genocide and the destruction of countless human lives and potential.
Yes there are many daunting world challenges but rather than ignoring them, if we all keep interested and get to know and understand them better, we will know the solution and what to do. We now have the historic opportunity to build a sustainable and more responsible shared world, and to offer solidarity to the poorest nations on the globe. This includes ensuring universal access to Covid vaccines without further delay, by answering the call of Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus of the United Nations and of the WHO- The World Health Organisation to vote for C-TAP- Covid Technology Access Pool that would allow all the technology and know how to be available to those poorer countries that could manufacture the vaccine themselves for their population.
We know that the big threat and the big challenges for us and for the planet is climate change. We know that because nature was not respected, and treated properly for the last few hundred years, that it suffered and is suffering great damage to its very core, which has unbalanced nature and brought about climate change. It has brought earth warming, causing fires and deserts, and icecaps to melt causing flooding. People are fleeing natural disasters and millions of people have been displaced and millions are fleeing from fighting brought about by conflicts over scarce food resources.
I’m sure this little crocus garden will make us also think of the little children and their families suffering today.
The great good thing is that now the leaders of the world know about climate change and know from science what to expect. They know the planet is in danger and they have been working for years on a plan to save it.
The 200 countries, members of the United Nations have agreed to put into action the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, that will heal the planet and look after life on earth. They are a plan for peace and prosperity, promoting human development, ethical societies, human rights and dignity.
I’m sure you children know the 17 Sustainable Development Goals from school and many of you will know them off by heart. No poverty, no hunger, good health and wellbeing, good education, gender equality, clean water & sanitation, clean and affordable energy, decent work, equality, and so on to action for climate change on water, and on land.
Countries all over the world are working to bring these about and the President and I, and people everywhere, are inspired and motivated by them. We are dedicated to working every day for the goals to be achieved. We know that there is only one planet and that we could all live happily on it if we shared things fairly.
It is not fair when there is great inequality, some people have not enough to survive and others have much more than they need. There is a great difference between what people need and what they want. People can be happy if they have enough of what they need, but people can want all kinds of things, they don’t need at all and some can be so stupid, greedy and silly they want the world and all.
We all know that we have to make changes to the way we live. You children are part of the young people of the world who are going to save the earth, the planet and give it the love it needs. It is so wonderful that with all the information you will be getting from the United Nations and UNICEF which is the United Nations Children’s Organisation, you will know so much of what needs to be done and what you can do. That will be very exciting and make you be happy and living great lives.
It was lovely having you all here today and you must come up in Spring to visit your Holocaust garden when the crocus are in bloom.
Lots of love and good wishes to you all.