Thursday 24 May 2018

Higgins: Why I no longer see myself as just a one-term president

President Michael D Higgins with his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos at a welcoming ceremony in Athens
President Michael D Higgins with his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos at a welcoming ceremony in Athens

Ian Begley in Athens

President Michael D Higgins has revealed that he no longer sees himself as a one-term president.

Speaking in Athens, Mr Higgins said he is undecided whether to run for a second term.

However, the Irish President acknowledged his ambitions have grown since he was first elected in 2011.

"I did say at one stage getting through the term was the length of my aspirations. I had changed my mind on that because I do think that very solid foundations had been laid.

"This leaves choices open as to what I may do."

Reports this week suggested that Mr Higgins will seek a second term, and plans to declare his intentions in July.

Yesterday he said: "In the appropriate time, I'll be making an announcement to clear any confusion that is there.

"I have said we're in the midst of deciding very serious matters in Ireland at the present time. It's best if we do that with a discourse that is civil and taking into account of different viewpoints when that is over."

The 76-year-old denied he was affecting anyone else's decision-making on a tilt at the presidency.

"It is a decision that I have to come to and my decision is not standing in the way anyone else's decision [to run].

"If I did decide to stand it would be invoking an article of the Constitution which would mean I would stand as an independent.

"Like anyone else, like every other candidate, I've to take many, many things into consideration.

"I don't think that anybody looking back at my history is ever going to say I've never been afraid of any democratic consultation of any kind."

The President concluded by telling members of the media: "I hope that satisfies every body's curiosity."

Mr Higgins is currently on a three-day State visit in Athens, Greece.

It begun with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in front of the city's Old Royal Palace.

He was then welcomed at the Presidential Mansion of Prokopios Pavlopoulos, president of Greece.

"I know President Macron was here recently and I read his speech he gave in Athens. He acknowledged that great mistakes with great effect on the Greek people had been made and these were mistakes of the European Union.

"If we're to draw on this and go forward I think I have to say something much stronger. That is that social cohesion must be placed at the top of the [EU's] agenda.

"It's not a union if some countries are condemned to be always poorer, nor to have adequate infrastructure, sufficient housing and health."

Mr Higgins then met Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras along with the mayor of Athens.

Mayor Georgios Kaminis presented President Higgins with the Medal of Athens at City Hall in the Greek capital.

Mr Higgins returned the gesture with a folio of his own poems.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News