Wednesday 22 November 2017

Michael D: 'I am not interfering in politics'

Rabbitte and Varadkar back Higgins, Enda and Higgins meet over Europe

President Michael D Higgins
President Michael D Higgins

Niamh Horan and John Drennan

President Michael D Higgins yesterday defended himself against accusations that he had gone beyond the constitutional remit of his office in his criticism of the austerity policy imposed by Europe.

"I don't think there is a speech I have given in the last three months that has the word austerity in it," the President said in Cork yesterday.

Yesterday, two senior government ministers came out to support the President in his stance against austerity.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte blasted the "lethargic response" of the European Central Bank and other European institutions while Transport Minister Leo Varadkar also warned that austerity was not the solution.

The statements were made in the aftermath of the second politically charged critique in a month by the President on the social and moral consequences of austerity.

President Higgins sought to defend his statements by defining the role of President in relation to Government: "I don't ever interfere on a matter of legislation . . . I don't see any reason as to why anyone should be confused about it at all."

He revealed that he has two-hour meetings every six weeks with the Taoiseach during which they discuss "the present state of Europe".

"The Government does what the Government does . . . I have a very positive relationship under Article 28 of the Constitution with the Taoiseach.

"I don't understand some of the conjecture that people have because I have to say our meetings are very positive.

"Our offices are independent. I am the President and my responsibility is to try and address the issues generally.

"On the Government's side the present Taoiseach is in fact responsible for constructing the legislation of the day."

In the Dail last week, Opposition attempts to raise the issue of President Higgins's statements were ruled out of order. "No, no, no, we do not go there with the President," the Ceann Comhairle told Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Fein.

The President added: "I have great confidence in my ability to put my own positions. I am really taking seriously the oath I took when I entered office, to use my abilities for the welfare of the people of Ireland."

Irish Independent

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