Politicised President

The recent speeches and media comments attributed to President Michael D Higgins, and the explanations that he and Labour Party ministers subsequently made, have unfortunately politicised an office that must be above politics.

The bluntness of his remarks was a barnburner. Those comments are a bellwether in advance of the local and European Parliament election campaigns next year, and have been cited by SIPTU to bolster their public-sector pay proposals. The independence of the President is guaranteed by the Constitution: he is not answerable to the Houses of the Oireachtas, nor to any court. But the Constitution also provides that the powers of the President can only be exercised on the advice of the Government. If the President exercises his right to address the nation, he must receive the approval of the Government. An insightful speech by a head of state can have a powerful and profound impact that endures long after the speaker has ceased to hold public office. Should the reputation and stature of this office not, therefore, be protected by the Government’s stamp of approval for each presidential speech? Surely that would strengthen the mandate of President Higgins in dedicating himself to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland, and facilitate a legacy free of controversy that will mature as an heirloom of universal acclaim.

Myles Duffy


Co Dublin

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