independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

The land of the Left -- where only laws they like apply

Having their cake and eating it: President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina must decide whether the office of president is neutral or not. Photo by Gareth Chaney

Before the inevitable criticism starts let me be clear on one thing - I voted for Michael D Higgins for President. As much as I may disagree with much of his politics, he was the best of a bad lot.

I don't think I've ever been less enthused when I've entered a polling booth. But I assumed he would be a good First Citizen - and the least likely to embarrass us on the world stage. Even on those issues where I would profoundly disagree with him, he conducts himself with a dignity and reluctance to demonise his opponents that is unfortunately rare on the Left.

Running an election campaign based on a personality and political viewpoint that would then automatically be silenced is one of those absurdities of a job that is about as essential as a parachute on a boat.

But that's the system we have and I don't regret voting for him (even though one of his supporters actually asked me not to publicly endorse him in this column which was rather insulting, if I'm honest).

But he has now, through accident or design, become embroiled in two completely unnecessary quagmires.

His omission of the word 'Christ' from his Christmas message reached farcical levels when his team dared to tell the press what questions were 'appropriate' for their man, and the news that his wife Sabina visited veteran agitator Margaretta D'Arcy in Limerick prison last Sunday is another spectacular own goal.

The simple fact is that D'Arcy was convicted for an illegal incursion on to a runway at Shannon airport and sentenced to three months in jail for her troubles - a sentence that would go away if she simply signed a bond promising not to break into a sensitive airport and disrupt flights.

In other words, if she gave her word that she would stop putting other people's lives in danger - what she does with her own life is her own business - then she wouldn't spend a minute inside. She refused to make that promise and, as you would expect, the sentence was executed.

That, you might think, was that. But since Sabina Higgins made Sunday's visit, the office of the president is once more under uncomfortable scrutiny; scrutiny that should never have been allowed to happen.

The Áras defence that this was a "private and personal visit" is ridiculous and, as it happens, redundant. Because the prison was closed on Sunday and a special dispensation was made allowing her to visit her old friend. Ireland being Ireland, of course, everybody has spectacularly missed the real issue and instead focused all their energies on whether or not they agreed with D'Arcy's actions - which are irrelevant.

After all, in a democracy, people have the right to support her just as much as they have the right to think that she is an attention-seeking, self-aggrandising old crank.

But by making the visit, the President's wife has now ensured that what should have been another Indymedia piece of futile grandstanding has become a hot-button issue - something that must gratify D'Arcy immensely.

Would those who support Sabina Higgins's right to vist a controversial old friend have felt as vociferously about the issue if they didn't admire the protester's politics? Would these supporters be so vocal if Mrs President had visited a prominent pro-life activist who refused to withdraw her threat to an abortion clinic? Or what if it was someone who had vowed to continue to disrupt gay rights meetings?

That is why Sabina was wrong - either the office is neutral or it's not.

And if both the President and his wife think the office should be more proactive, they should have made that clear before asking people to vote for them.

A SLIGHT DOUBLE STANDARD, PERHAPS

So, eventually freeing themselves from the paralysis of political correctness, the FA has finally got around to charging Nicolas Anelka for his now infamous 'quenelle' gesture.

As he looks at a ban that could be severe enough to convince him to finally retire, perhaps the most laughable element was the fact that they hired some experts to explore the potential 'cultural' justifications for his actions.

Hmmm. Really?

Compare the reluctance of the FA to condemn a black Muslim of north African extraction and how they would have reacted if an English-born white player had made the sign.

Let's put it this way, if it had been Joey Barton he'd be facing criminal charges by now and would never kick a ball again in his life.

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL? SORRY, I MEANT BLAIR

So, a part-time DJ, Twiggy Garcia, tried to perform a citizen's arrest on Tony Blair for 'crimes against peace'.

Interestingly, when Blair asked our hero what he thought of the current situation in Syria, Garcia replied: "I can only address things that are within my grasp at any one time."

Translation - he hadn't really thought about it because it's just not as trendy as showing off for his mates.

Irish Independent

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