Monday 19 February 2018

Kevin Myers: Higgins has a lot on plate with centenaries

A new presidency has arrived and the recent past must now be buried. Michael D Higgins is soon no more, and we shall soon have President Higgins as our first citizen, who places his imprimatur upon our laws, and is the commander-in-chief of our Defence Forces.

Whatever animosities there have been must now be laid aside. Not merely do I wish him well, but upon reflection, I also accept that the personal antagonism existing between us was in part my fault: that some of the language I used about him was not merely too personal, but was an abuse of columnar privilege. I regret, and I apologise for, this. President-elect Higgins on Friday becomes President Higgins, head of state of the Republic, and my president: he is entitled to, and is accordingly granted, my unequivocal loyalty as citizen.

What a job: head of a most anomalous state, and president of a republic that is not even named in our Constitution. Moreover, that very same Constitution calls the state "Eire", a term which some (but not I) consider derogatory, especially if used by outsiders, though it exists on our stamps, our coins and our paper currency. These also carry the harp, which is also on both the presidential seal and flag, but it is not on the flag of the Republic. Moreover, we are represented abroad by the "embassies of Ireland", not of the Republic of Ireland. This is probably a de Valeran sophistry, this particular 26 county-Republic not being a Fianna Fail creation. Yet so deeply interwoven is this ambiguity in the culture of the Department of Foreign Affairs that our diplomats probably seldom think about these terminological differences.

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