Hopefully Higgins's time on the farm will serve the country well
Published 09/11/2011 | 06:00
The race for our new president is run and the remarkable Michael Daniel Higgins has the job. Michael D's long list of life experiences includes a farming connection. Our president-elect was born in Limerick, but at the age of five he and his four-year-old brother were sent to live with an unmarried uncle and aunt on a farm near Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare.
Sean Gallagher, runner-up in the race to the Aras, also has farming credentials. He attended Ballyhaise Agricultural College and bought a small farm in Cavan in the 1980s.
According to one poll, Mr Gallagher was the favoured presidential candidate among farmers. Indeed, he could have made an interesting president for farming.
While it can be argued that the office has little to do with farming, the country badly needs entrepreneurial leadership from any source, and having a business head in the Aras can only be good for Ireland.
In any event, Martin McGuinness's intervention on RTE's Frontline show scuppered Gallagher's big chance. In delivering the knockout blow, McGuinness certainly didn't adhere to the proverb about "people in glass houses not throwing stones".
OK, when he was growing up in Derry, nationalists certainly had grievances, but John Hume grew up in the same city and he fought for his people without shedding a drop of blood. That said, McGuinness's conversion to the democratic politics is most welcome.
Michael D Higgins, too, has a family background of involvement in the Irish War of Independence but he himself is utterly a man of peace. While he can speak in flowery riddles, if you listen closely, his ideals are noble and his vision is wide.
Hopefully, president-elect Higgins's sojourn on the farm in Clare has given him an empathy with the industry and he will be a good ambassador for Irish farming and Irish food over the next seven challenging years. It would be a pity if his only involvement in Irish farming is the cursory visit to the National Ploughing Championships.