'I'm fit enough for second term - but no decision yet,' insists President Higgins
President Michael D Higgins has dismissed suggestions he may find another seven years in office too demanding.
Since he arrived in Perth on October 4, Mr Higgins has travelled the length and breadth of Australia, taking part in a multitude of meetings and events. The 77-year-old has not had a single day off. In fact, he has actually scheduled additional business and cultural meetings during his time in Australia.
Speculation is mounting about whether Mr Higgins will stand again for the Presidency - but he said that the decision won't be made public until May next year.
Asked if the demanding nature of such trips would make him wary of standing for a second term, he said he would factor in all considerations. He added, however, that he "would really find it an extraordinary construction if someone suggested that because my trips are going well I should be disqualifying myself from any of my options".
He added that he would take "everything into account" before making a final decision.
"I was invited by Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau to visit Canada, which is very significant again for migration, trade, investment and economy. If that happens…It might be May or whatever. After that, I will have a very clear view."
Some believe that a delay in the announcement could pose problems for other potential candidates.
Yesterday he stressed: "None of this decision-making of mine is standing by way of any obstacle to anybody else who wants to say what they want to wish for by way of being President of Ireland. That is the way it has always been.
"That is the way I became President myself."
Emotional Michael D recalls emigrant ancestors
It was the thought of the thousands of unsent letters home that caused President Michael D Higgins' voice to crack, and then break.
He was in the small outback town of Warwick in south Brisbane to meet the Irish diaspora on the penultimate day of his Australian state visit.
Warwick is the final resting place of his great uncle Patrick and great aunt Mary Ann who sailed to Australia in 1862. They were not alone. Between 1860-63, some 25,000 Irish arrived in Warwick.
In the 19th century, Mr Higgins said, remaining in touch with the old country took a heroic effort. There were financial costs, the distance emigrants had to travel to post offices, and the length of time it took their words to arrive home.
The emigrant's desire to shield their families from the difficulties they were facing was another factor, he said. As a result, the writing stopped, and the families drifted further apart. Better to lose touch than cause pain.
"So it is incredibly important on this visit as an Irish President to be able to say I am sorry for that broken connection," Mr Higgins said pausing to regain his composure. "There is nothing we can do about the letters that didn't come but there is a lot we can do about building our future relationships."