Saturday 23 March 2019

Kevin Doyle: Michael D can bask in the glory of our decision, but must also change

Michael D Higgins
Michael D Higgins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Listening to Michael D Higgins give his acceptance speech in Dublin Castle, you'd be hard pressed not feel a pinch of pride.

Standing before us was a 77-year-old who we have tried and trusted since he started showing up in 1968.

A politician, a poet and a perfect example of what the Irish aspire to be. He speaks our language, epitomises our culture and represents our values.

"I will, on your behalf, represent an Ireland committed to a peaceful world and a shared planet and together we will ensure that Ireland's voice matters," he promised. "This is a time to be active rather than passive, and clear choices are opening up as to what will be the character of our Irishness."

In the year of #MeToo, Mr Higgins called for an end to the "scourge of violence against women".

The worlds of Trump and Brexit appeared very far away as he spoke of a real republic being "a Republic of equality, of shared vulnerabilities and of collective capacities".

It was vintage Michael D Higgins. But his new term in office cannot be just more of the same.

The election raised many issues which Mr Higgins must address in order to ensure his legacy as one of Ireland's greatest servants is fully preserved. At times during the campaign, he was downright arrogant in the face of legitimate questions about spending at Áras an Uachtaráin.

The RTÉ exit poll shows that more than one in three voters feel the Office of the President is not providing value for money.

Mr Higgins also implied during the campaign that he is regularly available to answer journalists' questions. This is simply not the case. Even yesterday, his office was not responding to basic queries.

Being above politics does not mean being above public scrutiny.

Mr Higgins must also spend some time explaining his role to the people so that in 2025 we don't end up with reality TV stars and people who don't understand the Constitution.

But for today at least, he can bask in the reflective glory of a nation that has chosen well.

Irish Independent

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