Michael D Higgins told graduating students “education has the power to change the world” as he received an honorary degree on an official visit to Scotland.
Edinburgh University presented the president with a Doctor of Laws during a ceremony at the city’s Usher Hall.
The honour came on the second day of the president’s Scotland trip, which will see him address MSPs at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.
Mr Higgins said he had received the title “with full consciousness of the honour it constitutes” and told students they were graduating at a challenging time, but added: ” All of these challenges are available to your generation to redress and to overcome”.
He said: ” Scotland and Ireland are nations who facilitate and value dialogue, nations who wield moral authority rather than a sword, and we are also nations that believe in the power of education and ideas to change the world.
“The gift to you of our times – through your study, through your ethical and critically-aware lives together – is the possibility to make a new world in which all can flourish.
“The critiques of political disengagement sometimes levelled at young people do not correspond to my experience – not over many decades in public life and certainly not as President of Ireland.
“Here in Scotland, as in Ireland, I see a generation of young people who are not intimidated by the difficulties they face – young people who are looking outwards, willing to use new technologies to forge new connections and develop new solutions to create a better world for all.”
The president kicked off his four-day visit on Monday by addressing members of Glasgow’s Irish community at an event at the Govanhill neighbourhood centre, and later met Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
On Wednesday, the president – who is joined on the trip by wife Sabina – will address MSPs at Holyrood and meet with Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh.
Mr Higgins will leave Scotland for France the following day ahead of a commemorative event to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.