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New Council of State member insists role is more than symbolic

It was something of a throwaway remark but one that irked many. Describing the Council of State on which she once sat as "largely a symbolic body", the former Education Minister Gemma Hussey said what most people thought but few would declare publicly.

But Sally Mulready, a Labour Party councillor based in Hackney, says the council to which she has been recently appointed served a crucial role in Irish democracy.

She told the Irish Independent: "The Council of State is an important part of the constitutional function of the President. It has a very specific role with former Taoisigh, presidents and other leading figureheads making up the council so it is hardly symbolic."

Her appointment to the Council by President Michael D Higgins has been regarded as a significant gesture to the Irish diaspora. The council advises the President in the exercise of his discretionary reserve powers and Ms Mulready, a champion of Irish rights in Britain since the 1970s, believes her place on it shows Mr Higgins is listening.

She said: "It is concrete recognition of the importance of the contribution the Irish community in Britain makes to Ireland. Moreover, the President honoured a commitment he made to ensure that his presidency would be very inclusive in the broadest sense."

Employed with the Irish Elderly Advice Network, she added: "I have devoted my life to working with the more vulnerable and isolated sections of our community and it is here where I think there is still a great need for support."

Irish Independent