Wednesday 28 September 2016

Leo Varadkar's comments on President were ill-advised

Published 03/06/2016 | 02:30

President Michael D. Higgins (Picture: Steve Humphreys)
President Michael D. Higgins (Picture: Steve Humphreys)

It seems bizarre and extraordinary that Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar should find it necessary to publicly declare, 30 months before the next presidential election, that President Michael D Higgins would receive "broad cross-party support" were he to seek a second term, citing as supporting evidence that he "is making an excellent president" (Irish Independent, June 2)

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Article 12.4 of the Constitution provides that former or retiring Presidents may become candidates on their own nomination - so "broad cross-party support" is irrelevant in the case of President Higgins, or in the case of former Presidents McAleese and Robinson. The minister's intervention and judgment is neither necessary nor relevant.

It is noteworthy, however, that the Fine Gael candidate in the 2011 presidential election received less than 7pc of first-preference votes. The lacklustre Fine Gael campaign prior to this year's General Election resulted in a massive drop of 32pc in first-preference votes won (257,398 fewer votes), resulting in the formation of the weakest Government in the history of the State.

Following the rejection by the electorate of the 2013 referendum proposal on the abolition of Seanad Éireann, the Taoiseach has recently nominated no fewer than six former TDs to the Seanad who were rejected in the recent General Election - further weakening the moral authority and stature of the Oireachtas and treating the concept of Seanad reform with self-indulgent indifference and the expressed will of the people in the General Election with scorn.

Therefore, is the purpose of Mr Varadkar's proclamation about the next step in the career of President Higgins really a signal Fine Gael will not be in a position to nominate a candidate for President of Ireland of sufficient stature, substance and merit to overshadow the standard of excellence that Mr Varadkar currently discerns?

For a politician who is so defensive about the principle of a voter's right to choose, would the minister not be concerned that were an electoral contest not to take place, President Higgins would be denied the expressed consent of the people and a direct public mandate from them for a second term with a consequential diminution of his prestige and the eminence of the office of President?

Perhaps the weight and gravitas of the minister's dialogue with the public and his political judgment merely give expression to the age-old proverb about politicians generally - "the higher a monkey climbs a tree, the more of its tail you will see".

Myles Duffy

Glenageary, Co Dublin

The electorate must decide

I was delighted to read that President Michael D Higgins would have "strong cross-party support" if he were to seek a second term as president. Despite a few recent forays into controversy, he is a decent man who does an excellent job.

However, I would disagree with any suggestion that he might run unopposed. The days when the Government told us who the next president of this country was going to be and we could either like it or lump it, are gone.

I believe we have, as a people, have gotten very used to the idea that the person who sits in the Park holding the highest office in the land has been directly elected by the people.

The modern way of doing things is not only more democratic - it also adds to the prestige of the office that the holder is not merely some Government appointee but the person chosen by the people of the country as their President. And, it should be noted, an election helps keep in the mind of the one holding that office that it is his or her role to represent all the people of this country.

Revd Patrick G Burke

Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny

Leaving Cert hype is unhelpful

With the beginning of the Leaving Certificate exams approaching, so begins the media coverage of the exams. I actually think that most of this coverage is hype, and very unhelpful hype at that.

While the Leaving Cert is a big event, ultimately it's just another step along the journey of life. I am now 50 years old and I have completed three Leaving Certs in my time.

I did the first when I was 18 years old and to be honest, it didn't mean very much to me at the time.

I completed the other two as a mature student (in my twenties), because I decided to go to college. I might never have succeeded in my return to education had it not been for the experience of completing that first Leaving Cert when I was 18.

Later on, in my twenties, I completed a university degree. I have been teaching for the past 16 years, as well as doing an interesting variety of other skilled work along the way.

What all this has taught me is that education is, or should be, all about creating options and that life is a series of choices and challenges. Life also involves a lot of 'trial and error', and there is nothing wrong with that.

Every experience in life, including the exam process, has the potential to educate us and you can never have too much education, whatever its source. Everybody who is doing the Leaving Certificate should be allowed to get on with it, without all this annual media cackle.

Tim Buckley

White Street, Cork City

Ireland's Springboks challenge

With Irish rugby now in a stronger position than ever before, with the advance of a fourth Irish province, namely Pat Lam's Connacht, as a major force in the club game at home and abroad, it has never been a better time to seek a first-ever test victory for Ireland against the Springboks in South Africa.

The Irish rugby team has several reasons to puff out their chests with confidence in South Africa: in Joe Schmidt, we have arguably the best head coach we have ever had to prepare us; we defeated the Springboks comprehensively on the most recent occasion that we played them; and we are currently a (much) higher ranked international team than South Africa are, according to the official World Rugby rankings. These are the factors which should give Ireland's rugby team tremendous confidence and self-belief.

The fact that Ireland has never won a test match in South Africa, which is due in part to the infrequent nature of our visits there (many years are regularly allowed to pass between tours by the Irish rugby team to the great rugby nation of South Africa), will ensure that complacency will not be an issue for the Irish.

However, to say that we are more than capable of winning a test match in South Africa, if not the series itself, is an understatement.

John B Reid,

Monkstown, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

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