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Outspoken Higgins says he knows limits of role

President Michael D Higgins has vowed to continue to speak out on issues he is concerned about but says he is "conscious" of the constitutional constraints of his role.

President Higgins was responding to the controversy over his most pointed political statements to date by criticising the failure of EU leaders to break the link between sovereign and banking debt.

But Independent TD Finian McGrath has accused him of "crossing the line" into politics. The President said he is operating within his constitutional role.

"Oh, I am very conscious of the Constitution and I take it very carefully... you also have to bear in mind the oath I took upon taking office, which is 'Mo lan dhicheal a dheanamh ar son fonamh agus leasa Muintir na hEireann," he said.

"That is to use all of my abilities for the welfare of the people of Ireland. That is important," he added.

The President said there was "no difficulty" with him expressing his views.

"Of course, people aren't required to agree with me. But it is interpreting, as I feel, my contribution into a debate that is very, very important. There is no difficulty at all, as far as I am concerned, about what I am doing in terms of it being both positive and being clearly within what I think is both proper, right and constitutional," he said.

And the President said he will continue to express his views on issues of concern.

"I do think nobody would thank any of us for looking on at very serious situations, be it unemployment or poverty, or be it a kind of institutional inflexibility or whatever and to just not put our tuppence in to the debate and to do so positively in a way trying to be of help," he said.

Irish Independent