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President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins highlights vital contribution of nurses to society during DCU Virtual Graduation
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President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins highlights vital contribution of nurses to society during DCU Virtual Graduation

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins has paid tribute to the vital contribution that nurses make to society and the central role that they have played in the health service in Ireland in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, describing it as one that has “greatly inspired and uplifted the nation.”

In a video address to 217 graduates of DCU’s School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health taking place on Saturday June 6th as part of the university’s virtual graduation ceremony,

President Higgins said, “Recent months have brought into sharp focus the vital contribution that the nursing profession makes to our society.

As a nation facing, together, the challenge of the Coronavirus pandemic, we have been so greatly inspired and uplifted by the remarkable courage, compassion and generosity of those who work in our health services.

Central to that service is, of course, the nurses who deliver such safe and effective care in our hospitals, health centres, clinics, hospices and, of course, out in our wider communities.”

Paying tribute to the DCU nursing class of 2020, many of whom are now working on the front-line in the fight against Covid-19, President Higgins singled out the importance of care and compassion in the nursing profession,

“We also celebrate the instinct that has prompted you all to study nursing and that has driven you forward through the many hours of study and lectures, and on those first nervous steps into real world working environments.

The role of nurses may have changed considerably, and will continue to evolve and grow.

However, the spirit of compassion and care that has always lain at the core of the nursing profession remains one of its most important attributes.”

Highlighting the significant contribution of the nursing profession in Ireland to global healthcare, President Higgins commented,

“In 2017, the World Health Organisation stated that the advancing role of nurses and midwives in Ireland, which has seen the delivery of quality care to patients while simultaneously reducing the workload of primary care doctors, offers an important example for other countries. You can be very proud, therefore, of the profession into which you now graduate – a profession which accounts for half of our global healthcare workforce.

It is a profession which has grown to play a critical role in the implementation of patient-centred care and in the delivery of effective primary care services.

It is also, of course, a profession which requires specific and in depth qualifications and today we celebrate your achievement of those important credentials.”

Saturday’s ceremony is the university’s first virtual graduation of 2020, and the nursing cohort were chosen in recognition of the contribution of nurses on the frontline to the public health emergency caused by Covid-19 and also as an acknowledgement that this year marks the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

As part of the ceremony and to mark the occasion, internationally acclaimed poet and playwright Paula Meehan recited a specially commissioned poem “Crossing the Threshold”.

It draws on memories of her own childhood experience of being in hospital and the role of the nurse in charge of her care before the poem then moves on to articulate the challenges faced by nurses, caring for us, in a Covid world.

The President of Dublin City University, Professor Brian MacCraith, said,

“The world of the nurse is a sequence of 'quiet' or 'unrecorded' heroisms.

If there is any positive to come from the horrific pandemic that has afflicted us, it is that those previously unrecorded heroisms have now achieved global recognition.

So, today, as you embark on a career in that selfless profession, I feel that it is important that we express clearly, by our words and actions, how much we value these quiet heroines and heroes of our society.”

Dr MaryRose Sweeney, Head of the School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health, commented,

“Our graduates have had a very steep learning curve into the frontline of Covid-19.

Their time at DCU has prepared them well for this and the many challenges ahead of them over the lifetime of their professional careers.

We congratulate them, we thank them and we wish them every success and happiness.”

Annette Kennedy, President of the International Council of Nurses, which represents more than 20 million nurses in 130 National Nurses Associations across the globe, also addressed the virtual graduation.

Kennedy is a former Director of Professional Development at the Irish Nursing and Midwife Organisation (INMO) and past President of the European Federation of Nurses.


Pictured in the Solas Room, Glasnevin Campus,  President of Ireland Michael D Higgins with his wife Sabina Higgins