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Republic's intellectual crisis worse than economic slump, says Irish president


President Michael D Higgins

President Michael D Higgins

President Michael D Higgins

Irish president Michael D Higgins yesterday warned the assembled heads of the country's universities that the Republic is in the midst of an "intellectual crisis" which puts the current economic catastrophe in the shade.

Leading academics gathered in Dublin Castle as the president was awarded an honourary doctorate by the National University of Ireland (NUI).

And after years spent lecturing students at University College Galway (UCG) -- since re-named the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) -- the former sociology teacher is clearly still keen on his subject.

In a speech peppered with references to Max Weber, Karl Marx and Ernst Bloch, he said: "There is now I believe an intellectual crisis that is far more serious than the economic one, the one which fills the papers; dominates the programmes in our media.

"Such a crisis has arisen before at times of great or impending change," he added.

He said policy-makers have now widely accepted a proposition -- already rejected by the majority of serious economic historians -- that markets are rational.

Meanwhile, Mr Higgins recalled how he was 19 and working as a clerk for the ESB when he walked past the walls of UCG and was drawn to university education.

He enrolled as a mature student and immersed himself in student politics -- serving as president of the students' union -- before graduating with a BA and BComm in the mid-1960s.

So enamoured was he with university life, that he then became a lecturer in sociology and political science -- a role he described as a "privilege".

"The UCG of the 1960s was a fairly intimate experience. The relatively small numbers meant that it was possible to know and socialise with, not only those with whom one shared subjects, but with students from other faculties," he explained.

Belfast Telegraph