President Michael D Higgins has said the "burden of homelessness will overshadow the festive season for those deprived of a secure and permanent shelter".

In his Christmas and New Year Message, President Higgins looked forward to 2018 bringing a sense of hope and optimism for each and every person and family.

He said that during the year he had been fortunate to meet groups and volunteers who shone a light of hope into the lives of some of the most marginalised people, describing their work as inspiring and uplifting.

On refugees and the displaced, he asked that people reflect on their ongoing plight, "on the many millions of children, women and men around the world who are so far from the comfort and dignity of a home or secure shelter.

"During 2017, we learned that 20 people are newly displaced every minute, forced to leave their homes, to seek refuge.

"Wars, conflict, persecution, and natural disasters have forced more people to flee than at any other time since records began."

The President said that the "ongoing humanitarian crisis emanating from Rakhine State in Myanmar, with its many hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh reminds us vividly of what some communities face on their long and difficult struggle to find a rightful place in a peaceful society.

"As a global community and as responsible global citizens, we are called upon to respond in a way which will respect the universal right to live in safety and with dignity."

President Higgins thanked everyone who cares for our communities, "An Garda Síochána, the Prison Service, all of the staff in our hospitals and emergency services, and members of the Defence Forces serving abroad who are building or supporting peace.

"May I wish each and every one of you, wherever you may be, a peaceful and happy Christmas."