Wednesday 7 December 2016

This civility has many authors

Published 13/04/2014 | 02:30

The President’s sharp message about the superior virtues of that school of nationalism that is founded on the ballot box was certainly welcome last week
The President’s sharp message about the superior virtues of that school of nationalism that is founded on the ballot box was certainly welcome last week

LITTLE in the outward persona of Michael D Higgins suggests he is a devotee of the politics of 'speak softly but carry a big stick'. In fact, our flamboyant President has invented a subtle variant, where he uses soft language to usher harsh truths into the national consciousness. The President's sharp message about the superior virtues of that school of nationalism that is founded on the ballot box was certainly welcome last week, for there was a need for some steel to balance the Windsor house rodomontade. In fairness, the latter may have been informed by relief at the rare sight, in an age of public rot, of a politics of wisdom and honest authenticity. After the squalor of recent controversies, we need to hear untainted public voices.

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Last week, this occurred when, in a similar display of straight talking to his previous challenge to the "limits of austerity", the President spoke of Daniel O'Connell's belief that freedom is best "attained not by the effusion of human blood but by the constitutional combination of good and wise men".

Outside of the critique that wise women are equally necessary for good governance, it was a necessary reiteration of the often-forgotten fact that despite the ongoing strange seductiveness of the miserable concept of blood sacrifice, progress in Ireland has always been secured by constitutional democracy, buttressed by no sharper sword than the assent of the people.

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