'Material things are not important to me' - President Higgins refuses to say whether he is a millionaire
President Michael D Higgins has refused to say whether he is a millionaire, claiming material things don't interest him.
The incumbent has been repeatedly lumped in with the 'Dragons' Den' businessmen as a "one of four millionaires" in the election race.
Senator Joan Freeman has claimed the office of the presidency is becoming unattainable for somebody without personal wealth or the backing of a political party.
Mr Higgins takes a reduced salary of just under €250,000 a year, which adds up to €1.75m over the term of his presidency. He also has rental income from a property in Galway and a pension from his time as a college lecturer.
When asked by the Irish Independent if Ms Freeman is justified in casting him as a millionaire candidate, he replied: "Material things are not important to me."
The President said he has respect for Ms Freeman's work as a mental health campaigner and is "not really interested in trading insults with her".
Mr Higgins said his speeches over the past seven years showed his interest lay in "a civilisation of sufficiency".
It was put to Mr Higgins the other five candidates ganged up on him in Monday's televised debate - but he said he wants a "respectful relationship" with his rivals.
An email sent out by his campaign team to supporters after the debate claimed he put in a "great performance" despite every candidate "trying to round on him".
But Mr Higgins said: "What I'd like to see now in the space that is left is for people to simply concentrate on the content of the different packages that are on offer.
"They represent different versions of a potential future of Ireland. I accept that.
"What I'm offering is not just what is in the literature here but also the particular experience that I have had."
He added: "Very often and most of life I was in a minority. So you learn respect. What I think is important now is for us to concentrate on the what version of the next seven years and of the president do each of the candidates have."
Mr Higgins was speaking at the launch of an initiative he plans to introduce if re-elected, called 'SamhlaÍocht agus an Náisiún: Imagination and the Nation'. It focuses on the role of art and creativity in the shaping of Ireland past, present and future.