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Tuesday 28 February 2017

Michael D finds he has a rabbit fan base on his walk in the Park

'Will you talk to the White Rabbit, Michael?" asked the photographer nicely.

And Michael D obliged. He turned to the giant bunny which was standing beside him holding a clock.

"Time is just an illusion," he chattily told the rabbit.

Ah yes, in among the aroma rising from the multifarious plants and flowers at Bloom was the scent of a presidential campaign under way.

Still, as a hopeful candidate for the Aras, Michael D Higgins is probably a lot safer conversing with a white rabbit than, say, a food critic.

Michael had picked a stunning day to take a tour of the fabulous Bloom festival in the Phoenix Park. The sun was splitting the polished stones as he was taken on a guided tour of the gardens by Aidan Cotter, CEO of An Bord Bia and Gary Graham, the Bloom project manager.

And even though he wouldn't be the tallest poppy in the window-box, the diminutive former deputy was easy to spot in among the huge crowd.

For a start, he was dressed in a dark suit and an appropriately floral tie. "I bought myself this tie for my birthday, it was a bit of a treat to myself," he confided.

He was instantly recognised by many of the floraphiles who were pouring in through the gates. No surname is required.

"Howaryeh Michael D. Are you running for President?" asked one woman.

"Well, hopefully," he replied. "Good, you have my vote so," she assured him.

However, it's still early days in the race for the Aras, and so the Galwayman was in no rush to shake every hand and kiss every hot and cross infant wailing in buggies.

He took his time strolling around the prize-winning gardens, and sat chatting to the overall award winner, Oliver Schurmann, in his water-themed garden, before reading a few lines from Joyce's 'Finnegans Wake' in the 'River Run' garden designed to mark Dublin's selection as a UNESCO City of Literature.

And who could blame him, as it's a beguiling place to while away a few hours.

And it was obvious that Michael D knows his petunias from his pansies.

"I was reared in Co Clare and I'd know most of the older flowers," he explained, before adding that his wife Sabina is the keener gardener.

"We're in the house we're in now since 1991, and we've literally sown everything in it, so I'm very interested in the displays," he added.

"But it's also interesting to listen to the excitement of the creative people here as they describe how they put things together to make something new. There's also a touch of creative madness, which we need."

But as well as tiptoeing through the tulips, was the wannabe Uachtaran na hEireann also checking out the neighbourhood with his tour of Bloom, which is handily situated beside the Aras?

Michael D was cautious. "The campaign is going well, people here today seem to know me," agreed Modest Michael.

But he wasn't happy about the recent furore surrounding rival candidate David Norris and his one-time interviewer Helen Lucy Burke.

"I was very disappointed with all of that, because quite frankly I've said that the debate about the Presidency should be about the vision that a person holds and offers the Presidency and also on the capacities that you're bringing. I know that David Norris has represented Trinity with distinction and also the Senate," he said.

SO what -- as the marketing folk are wont to say -- is Michael D's unique selling point when it comes to a run for the Park?

"I think the next seven years has to be a presidency of intellectual strength," he reckoned.

"I propose to run seminars on things that are not dealing with the pressing issues but which may be neglected, such as the meaning of Irishness, the unaccountability of economics, what we think of the European vision," he explained.

And to this end, Michael D Higgins will engage anyone in discourse and confabulation -- even the White Rabbit who was gamboling around the 'Alice in Wonderland'-themed garden.

Michael D stood between Alice and the rabbit, as the photographers snapped away. "Curiouser and curiouser," he quipped, still fresh as a daisy.

Irish Independent

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