Belfast Telegraph

President Higgins makes first visit to Belfast

By Patrice Dougan

The new Irish President has vowed to take his lead from his two female predecessors in working towards gender equality.

Michael D Higgins was speaking as he addressed the Women’s Conference of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions at the Waterfront Hall yesterday during his first visit to the city since being elected the Republic’s Head of State.

He paid tribute to the “central role” women played in the history of Northern Ireland.

Singling out female trade unionists, he said: “It has been my experience that the style of leadership usually pursued by women makes them particularly effective in getting the job done.

“There is accumulating evidence that women bring a set of communication and interpersonal skills to the workplace which, while often ignored in the past, are better suited to the team-oriented leadership of the 21st century.”

He said “it is not only women, but society as a whole, that suffers a loss” when women are excluded from senior roles.

Mr Higgins said his predecessors Mary Robinson and Belfast-born Mary McAleese had carried out “amazing work”.

He said: “They worked in a measured and focused way to unpack problems, break down barriers and get to the heart of an issue in a way which made it amenable to solution,” he said.

“The achievements of Mary McAleese in respecting and reaching out to all traditions and fostering friendships across communities are peerless.

“The work of Mary Robinson on behalf of the most disadvantaged across the globe has brought her an international recognition she never sought herself. I hope to build on their achievements during my period in office.”

Talking about the economic crisis, Mr Higgins said he believed a strong trade union movement would “again play a pivotal role in rebuilding our damaged society”.

\[Shane Donaghey\]”Surely the lesson of the peace process in Northern Ireland is that no problem, however its apparent intractability, is impervious to solution if we summon up the collective will, determination and ingenuity to address and resolve it,” he said.

Profile

Michael Daniel Higgins (70) was elected Ireland’s ninth president in November, after defeating several candidates including Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Eurovision winner Dana. A poet, sociologist, author and broadcaster, he was president of the Labour Party until his resignation during the Irish Presidential election.

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