Friday 9 December 2016

Seamus Heaney: The magic of Mary

Published 29/10/2011 | 05:00

Before Mary McAleese's first term as President of Ireland, before she was elected, even before she was nominated as the Fianna Fáil candidate, she said: "We have come to realise that the emotional reach of the presidency is much, much greater than its constitutional reach."

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This may have been intended as a tribute to the then incumbent Mary Robinson, whose "emotional reach" to the Irish diaspora had been such an inspiring feature of her seven years in the presidency. But it was also a foreshadowing of the seven years, indeed the twice seven years, that were to come.

Some months later, in her inaugural address, President McAleese referred to another of her predecessors in the office, the late Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, and quoted his observation that "presidents, under the Irish Constitution, don't have policies. But . . . a president can have a theme".

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