VIDEO: 1916 celebrations should emphasise diversity, says President Higgins

President Michael D Higgins has called for the 1916 centenary celebrations to be used to remember the “diversity of our people and events” that have made the nation what it is today.

VIDEO: 1916 celebrations should emphasise diversity, says President Higgins

The 74-year-old made the comments in his fifth new year’s message from Áras an Uachtaráin, as Tánaiste Joan Burton added to rumours that Higgins, her party colleague, may seek re-election in 2018 (he initially said he would only stay for one term).

President Higgins said the upcoming celebration of Ireland’s independence should “honour the courage and dignity” of our ancestors.

He said the public should recall the “full richness of our history and the diversity of our people and events that are part of what we are today” and should underline the “unity of our endeavours”, and not propagate a divisive history. He said it was vital the country used the next 12 months to “rekindle an idealism that in 1916” resulted in a “desire to be free”.

Mr Higgins made his remarks as Tánaiste Joan Burton became the latest Labour member to say she will back him if he runs for a second term as president.

Ms Burton said she will “certainly be happy to back him”, if he “wishes to serve a second term”, amid ongoing rumours the former arts minister is planning to continue in office past 2018.

Speaking to reporters as part of a Christmas briefing, she said that while President Higgins campaigned on the promise of a single term in office, during the 2011 presidential election, he has done “a really good job” and has the support of “people right across Ireland” to continue, if he chooses to do so.

Her comments follow similar remarks by the ex-Labour leader, Eamon Gilmore, who said in June that President Higgins “is doing a great job and should stand again, it’s as simple as that”.

In October, Mr Higgins sparked renewed interest in what may happen after 2018, when he responded to questions about his own future, and whether he would run for the position again, by giving “neither a yes nor a no” to the question.

“In the fullness of time, when it’s appropriate, I’ll address that issue,” he said, adding: “Who are any of us to guess what circumstances will belie.”

While the President is a popular figure, his position in the role — which, if he contested and won a 2018 election would see him serve until the age of 83 — has previously been questioned, due to a small number of health scares.

Such a move may also cause friction between Labour and Fine Gael, should the Coalition be returned to office, as Fine Gael would find it almost impossible to run its own candidate.

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