Sunday 19 January 2020

Backlash over Michael D criticism may prompt apology

Conor Kane and Graham Clifford in LONDON

President Michael D Higgins is greeted by delegates at the hotels conference in Kilkenny yesterday. Don MacMonagle

THE London-based Irish Post newspaper is expected to issue a full apology to Michael D Higgins this week after they strongly criticised the President.

As many as 44 Irish community organisations based in Britain signed a strongly worded letter of protest against the newspaper's coverage of Mr Higgins's visit to London last month in which the title said he "delivered a huge snub"to Irish people living there.

The paper complained that the President had not granted its reporters enough interview time or explained how exactly he planned to make good on promises made to the immigrant population when he visited London during his presidential election campaign. A cartoon of Mr Higgins with his mouth zipped shut offended the signatories of the group letter which was delivered to the Irish Post offices yesterday.

The group demanded an "unreserved apology" and includes organisations from across a wide spectrum of the Irish community in Britain. Yesterday when opening the Irish Hotels Federation annual conference in Kilkenny, President Higgins had delegates in stitches when he took to the podium and referred to recent comments that landed him in hot water. Mr Higgins joked: "I have to be extremely careful about my departures from script, given the sensitivities of not those who matter but, perhaps, those who chatter."

Mr Higgins, also reminisced about his own time in the hotel industry.

"During the course of my student life, between 1962 and 1966, I worked in hotels every summer in England," he recalled. "It was initially a kind of life-skills course, I think . . . I moved from serving drink all the way through to full silver service, and I have a bogus reference that describes me as a wine butler," he said to more gales of laughter.

Mr Higgins said that the hotel industry makes "an enormous contribution" to the Irish economy and referred to last year's 8pc growth in overseas visitors at a time of "continuing difficulties". He also saidthat Ireland has much to attract the visitor.

Irish Independent

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