Message by President of Ireland: Michael D. Higgins to the ‘Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2020’

27th November 2020

The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins in a recent letter to the Cork Mother Jones Committee sends his best wishes to all involved in organising the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. He praises Mother Jones as a catalyst for change and an emancipatory figure to whom we all owe a great deal of gratitude.

On the eve of first conference of the festival, entitled The Dynamic Role of the Labour Unions in the wake of Covid-19 and the Safe-keeping of Front Line Workers in partnership with University College Cork Civic Engagement, President Higgins in his message to the organisers expresses his solidarity with all those workers whose contribution is so vital during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

President Higgins expresses the hope that their protection, job security and decent working conditions will prevail and that work as an enriching human activity will be the version of work that prevails.

Welcoming the President’s letter of support for the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee stated

“We are delighted with this very positive message from President Higgins to the organisers of the festival and for his warm tribute to the powerful, gritty and sustained contribution of Cork born Mother Jones to the labour movement in the United States.

The President’s visionary call for this Covid-19 crisis to provide an opportunity to rethink the connections between climate neutrality, a sustainable economy, social welfare and labour itself is very welcome.

The ninth Spirit of Mother Jones festival opens online on Friday 27th November at 3pm with University College Cork hosting a webinar with a number of trade union speakers participating. Among those taking part are Phil Ni Sheaghdha, General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Ann Piggott, President of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland and Edward Lahiff of the Irish Federation of University Teachers. (Click to register this event only)

He expresses solidarity and support for the thousands of front-line workers who continue to put their lives at risk for the benefit of fellow citizens and calls on people to commemorate the thousands of workers throughout the world who in the service of others have already lost their lives. ”  

Cork Singer Club on Sunday 8.30pm live on the Cork Singers’ Club Facebook page.

All other events at www.corkcommunitytv.ie



Message by President Michael D. Higgins

To the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2020′

27th November 2020

May I send my best wishes to all those involved in organising the 2020 ‘Spirit of Mother Jones Festival’, as well as all those attending the event. This year we gather together virtually with our fellow workers across the globe to mark the 90th anniversary of Cork-born Mary Harris’s death on 30th November 1930.

In the great, significant moments of the labour movement, we can identify moments when a single individual becomes a catalyst for positive change. Mary ‘Mother’ Jones is one such figure, among those emancipatory figures, to whom we all owe a great deal of gratitude. A survivor of the Great Famine, the Yellow Fever Epidemic of Memphis and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which robbed her of her home, family and livelihood, as well as the so-called ‘Spanish Flu’ Pandemic of 1918/19, Mother Jones was a woman of enormous grit and vigour. Yet, despite the toll of such personal struggle and tragedy, she found and mustered the resolve that enabled her to contribute so much to the labour movement in the United States over a period of several decades.

We gather together at a time of unprecedented risk for those who work tirelessly and selflessly in our health services, and those who ensure the continued delivery of essential services and utilities on which our citizens depend. Your conference is taking place as we face the challenge of dealing with a pandemic that is having such devastating personal, social and economic consequences.

However, out of such a crisis we are presented with perhaps a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do things better, to embrace and bring to fruition a new paradigm of existence with each other, in relation to work and living, and with the world itself; a renewed and healthier symbiosis of society, economy and ecology. The pandemic provides an opportunity to rethink the connections between climate neutrality, a sustainable economy, social welfare and labour itself.

The appropriate role Mother Jones would seek for trade unions, the labour movement and egalitarians of every hue is working together to give a lead. Work, above all else, is a human activity and given that in its form, conditions and purpose must have the participation, thought, design and sense of collectivity that comes from being a trade union member and activist.

Today let us commemorate the many thousands around the world who have, through their generous and willing efforts in the service of others, lost their own lives to COVID19, giving their lives for others with whom they shared the public world. Let us remember and celebrate also the many thousands more who continue to put their lives at risk in order to continue their important work, work that is for the benefit of their fellow citizens.

To all those workers who have responded to the Coronavirus crisis with such a generous spirit of solidarity, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude. However, gratitude, whose expression is so important, cannot be, and must never be, perceived as any adequate substitute for the dignity, well-being, and security of employment which is the right of all workers in any fair and inclusive society for which Mother Jones fought tirelessly.

As we navigate our way towards a shared and better future, we must resolve to build a lasting memorial to those brave and selfless workers who have been too easily left out of the pages of history. Let it be our battle cry, too, that battle cry of Mary ‘Mother’ Jones, and the motto that lies at the heart of this important day: “Remember the dead, fight like hell for the living”.

Today, as we reflect on the dynamic role of trade unions in the wake of the pandemic and the safe-keeping of our front-line workers, let us all commit to continuing our appreciation by standing in solidarity with all those whose contribution is so vital during this difficult time, recognising and enabling their right to protection, to be represented, to participate, to job security and decent working conditions now and into the future, where work will, in an enduring way, be recognised for the enriching human activity that it can be, and must in post-pandemic society be the version of work that prevails.

I wish your festival every success.

Beir beannacht.

Michael D. Higgins

Uachtarån na hÉireann

President of Ireland

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