Ireland’s president has used his annual Christmas message to appeal for hospitality towards immigrants and global action on climate change.

Reflecting on “the story of Mary and Joseph seeking refuge in Bethlehem”, Michael D Higgins recalls Ireland’s “own long journey of emigration”.

He says: “Today many people turn to us, their fellow global citizens, for protection and shelter for themselves and their families, and for the provision of hope for a better future.

“Do we dismiss them from our door, telling them there is no room at our inn, or do we greet them in a spirit of hospitality bearing in mind the history of emigration this is such a defining characteristic of the Irish people?”.

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Turning to climate change, President Higgins says it has been “uplifting” to witness the younger generation demonstrate their willingness to play their part in the “collective action that is necessary”.

He continues: “Governments have a key role in leading necessary change. However, if we are to succeed in meeting this great challenge, we must all act as a global community.

“What may seem small individual actions can make a big impact cumulatively on our carbon emissions.”

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“Therefore, as we begin a new year, let us determine to reduce our carbon footprint and become more aware of how our actions can damage our planet’s fragile biodiversity,” he urges.

Michael D Higgins is the ninth president of Ireland and has served as head of state since November 2011.

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The broadcast version of his Christmas message, filmed in his official residence Aras an Uachtarain, features his Bernese mountain dogs Brod and Sioda, who have become a social media phenomenon.

He ends with a plea for the Irish to “walk in solidarity with those who are vulnerable” at home and abroad.

He says: “It is that solidarity that has always given strength to the beating heart of our society, seeking to draw from all that is best about our Irishness and thus helping us to meet the challenges of the complex world in which we live.”