President Announces Nationwide Ethics Initiative
President Announces Nationwide Ethics Initiative
The President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative
Shaping Ireland’s Shared Future
“During my Presidency, I also intend to hold a number of Presidency Seminars which may reflect and explore themes important to our shared life yet separate and wider than legislative demand, themes such as the restoration of trust in our institutions, the ethical connection between our economy and society, the future of a Europe built on peace, social solidarity and sustainability.”
(Extract from inaugural address, Dublin Castle, 11 November 2011)
The President on many occasions, prior to and following his inauguration, has said that his would be a “Presidency of ideas - recognising and open to new paradigms of thought and action” and that he would seek to develop a public discourse that places human flourishing and an ethic of active citizenship at its heart. Through a number of his speeches the President has explored the importance and challenge of ethics in Irish life and Ireland’s relationships abroad.
President Higgins’ first Presidency Seminar: ‘Being Young and Irish’ engaged with almost 800 young people nationwide, inviting them to “Take Charge of Change” and share with him their vision for Ireland’s future. Many of those who took part expressed the wish for a more socially conscious Ireland, a society where at its very core lie values of care and concern for the welfare of all our citizens.
At this time, as Ireland emerges from a period of crisis and envisages a future for our citizens, including the largest cohort of young people proportionately in the European Union, the President has decided that the second in his seminar series should explore throughout all aspects of society, the topic of ethics and the challenge and invitation of living ethically. The President hopes to engage people across this Island in this discourse, and as outlined in his speech at Dublin City University last September, his invitation is that they will collectively pursue a reflection on ethics that might have the result of bringing about a change in public consciousness, and become a catalyst for positive change.
President Higgins began his initiative by inviting representatives of the universities, together with the Dublin Institute of Technology and the Royal Irish Academy to meet with him. He invited the representatives to work with Áras an Uachtaráin and the RIA, the latter having generously offered to assist in coordinating individual events where the third level institutions wished to work collaboratively. President Higgins was delighted and encouraged by the overwhelming support for the initiative from these organisations and at the working meeting at the Áras which followed, culminating in the wide-ranging and numerous planned events that form the first tranche being announced today.
Speaking about the initiative President Higgins said:
“I am delighted that the third level institutions have made resources available to initiate this early debate, and have responded so positively. As a result over 50 events will take place across this island in the coming months, all of which will stimulate debate on and awareness of ethics. I am particularly pleased that some of the institutions are putting in place initiatives that will endure well beyond this year.
It is my hope that these individual events, and other initiatives in the discourse on ethics will be the source of extensive public debates, and meet the expectations of our citizens for such values as will enable us to build a sustainable social economy and a society which is profoundly ethical and inclusive. As we leave behind a crisis that caused such reputational damage to our country, this debate will, I hope, contribute to building more just and sustainable versions of Ireland’s future, and help establish an ethical dimension and discourse as key parts of our regulatory frameworks and our contribution to a wider European and global debate.”
Amongst the themes to be explored are: ethics in economics, business practices, financial services and professions; cyberethics and data collection; ethics in healthcare; ethics with regard to planning construction, architecture and its impact on the environment; intercultural ethics; religion and other sources of ethics in public life; and the role of ethics in discourse and the media in its formation and its practice.
The President is hopeful that the events listed will initially engage with the field of ethics in its broadest sense, as a conceptual framework, before applying analysis to particular issues in specific sectors or professions.
Following this first stage of the initiative, the President will host a seminar at Áras an Uachtaráin later in 2014 drawing on the experience of the events hosted by the individual institutions, in addition to examining ways through which the initiative can be advanced by stimulating further debate, discussion and action throughout society.
The President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative is the second in a series of public seminars and reflections that President Higgins intends to hold during his term in Office.
As part of a major new initiative by President Michael D. Higgins, Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin will explore the ethics and future directions of synthetic biology – an emerging scientific field that could ultimately permit the design of living organisms.