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'A very large number of people wanted this kind of President' - Michael D Higgins stands by comments on Defence Forces pay

 

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President Michael D Higgins meets members of the Defence Forces

President Michael D Higgins meets members of the Defence Forces

President Michael D Higgins meets members of the Defence Forces

President Michael D Higgins has insisted he did not stray from his constitutional role in recent interventions on Defence Forces pay and the beef crisis.

And he agued that a “very, very large number of people in Ireland” decided they wanted the kind of presidency he offers.

He defined this as a President who won't interfere with government policy but is consicous of what he calls: “vulnerability of prospects and hopes up the Irish people”.

There were eyebrows raised in government when Mr Higgins said it is “not too much” to expect that Defence Forces personnel should have “an income and prospects” to provide for themselves and their families.

Ministers privately expressed anger, claiming he strayed from his remit in reigniting the row over pay.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other ministers reacted saying they agreed with Mr Higgins remarks, outlining government efforts to improve pay.

Later Mr Higgins made remarks at the National Ploughing Championships about how farmers need “transparency, protection and a fair system” at the height of the crisis over prices paid to beef farmers and protests at meat processing plants.

Mr Higgins – who is in New York to address the UN General Assembly tomorrow – denied he has any regrets over the comments on the Defence Forces and added that he thought the government response was “very positive”.

He disputed the suggestion he had waded into the beef row saying he was speaking about farm families and how they would benefit from transparency on beef prices.

He said he doesn't speak about matters that are the subject of legislation before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Mr Higgins said: “I'm very, very much within the Constitution.”

He also said: “maybe it would be good if – one or two people do come straight our with it and they say they'd like a president that a just was handed the speeches to read out or that they'd like a president who didn't have an opinion on anything like this.”

However, he added: The fact of the matter is a very, very large number of people in Ireland decided that they wanted this kind of President who wouldn't interfere in the agencies of government but that would be conscious and aware of what I call the vulnerability of prospects and hopes up the Irish people.”

Online Editors