Friday 21 October 2016

My Week: President Michael D Higgins* *As imagined by Eilis O'Hanlon

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 03/01/2016 | 02:30

President Michael D Higgins. Photo: Collins
President Michael D Higgins. Photo: Collins

President Michael D Higgins' week (as imagined by Eilis O'Hanlon).

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MONDAY My wrist is aching, sore as an emigrant's heart, from all the bills the Government keep sending up the Aras for me to sign.

I feel as one with my fellow poet, Samuel Beckett. "I can't go on. I'll go on."

Immune to the majesty and mystery of mid-winter, they even had me signing them on Christmas Day.

Her Majesty the Queen, who had the honour of meeting me on her visit to our land of saints and scholars, surely isn't forced to endure such tribulations.

Last to be signed is the Prisons Bill. I wonder if anyone would notice if I add a quick amendment calling for the incarceration of the scoundrels who keep comparing me to Dobby the house elf from the Harry Potter films. Such impertinence damages the immense dignity of my office.

I was friends with Seamus Heaney, you know.

Of course, I wouldn't do it. I take the job of being President very seriously, with the emphasis on very. Ireland is blessed to have a Head of State with such moral integrity and perspicacity. (I could have used a different word, but perspicacity, being of Latinate provenance, has more syllables. Late Latin, to be exact circa 1540. Sean Gallagher wouldn't have known that.)

TUESDAY Over Earl Grey and a slice of wholegrain toast, I peruse the morning's printed news publications, and am dismayed to discover that my Christmas message to the nation failed to challenge something called Mrs Brown's Boys as the most watched programme over the festive season.

"Who is this Brendan O'Carroll of whom they speak?" I ask Sabine.

"I believe he's a bit like Pirandello," she replies, "only with more jokes about bodily functions." I shudder delicately, like a sprig of Connemara heather shaken by a stiff breeze. One does not care to be reminded of such things when contemplating the awful hegemony of neo-liberalism, about which I spoke so eloquently at Amnesty last summer.

After breakfast, I sign more bills, before turning my impressive mind to great affairs of State. Today, I have summoned together my Council of State to discuss the new asylum bill, for which I have expressed reservations lest it annoy all the politically correct hipsters who voted for me.

First to arrive is the Taoiseach, grumbling at having to trudge out to the Phoenix Park on his day off. It could be worse, I point out, you could be up to your oxters in Shannon water instead. "Don't you start having a go too," he says.

Then it turns awkward as Mary McAleese turns up. I know she's looking round, wondering where all the holy pictures that she hung up have gone.

I spot Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen and ask if they've got lost on the way to the races. They say no, they're on the Council of State too. Surely that can't be right? I thought this was a gathering of the wisest in the land?

We get down to work. Three hours of talking follow - and that's just me. By the end of the day, they've all said that I should just sign the ruddy bill and be done with it. I can't help feeling wounded, as if they're getting their own back at me for dragging them out over the holidays.

I now have 24 hours in which to make a decision. My decision is that I'd like a new Council of State, please.

WEDNESDAY I arise from my nocturnal repose to find more bills waiting to be signed, including one aimed at helping those incapable of doing it themselves better manage their financial affairs. If only it had come yesterday, I could have passed it on to Bertie.

I can sense that the country is on tenterhooks, wondering if I will refer the bill to the Supreme Court, though it's making a good job of pretending that it isn't. Before doing so, I issue a special message on the significance of 2016, urging Ireland to build on the promise of inclusiveness contained in the 1916 Proclamation.

The irony of a man on a €250,000 salary who lives in a 95-room mansion pontificating on equality is not lost on me, but I trust everyone will be far too sycophantic as usual to mention it.

By now I am getting into my stride. It's basically a rehash of my inaugural speech on the need to create a "Real Republic", but I have long been a champion of recycling as a way of offsetting the damage to the environment caused by all the hot air expelled whenever I deliver a speech.

I wax lyrical on "active engagement" and the "full richness of our history". This is the sort of waffle that passes for insight in University College Galway. Not only does it get me another glowing eulogy from my loyal subjects in the Irish Times, it also gives me a full house in today's game of Cliche Bingo.

The video is released onto the internet under the title "A Word From Michael D Higgins". That makes me smile. Everyone knows I never use one word where a dozen longer ones will do.

In the evening, I finally give in and sign the asylum bill. Storm Frank rages in solidarity with my pain.

THURSDAY The Tanaiste graciously offers to back me should I run for a second term as President. I should say so. I'm the only Labour candidate with any chance of being elected to anything these days.

*As imagined by Eilis O'Hanlon

Sunday Independent

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