Tuesday 16 October 2018

So why should we vote for Michael D Higgins again?

It's an unexciting field in the race for the presidency, but that's no reason to vote for the horse we know best, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

Presidential race: Michael D Higgins has been conscientious in office, but may not be the best possible candidate for the next seven years in the Aras. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Presidential race: Michael D Higgins has been conscientious in office, but may not be the best possible candidate for the next seven years in the Aras. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards

Try as I might, I can't yet find a candidate to cheer for in the presidential race. It may be that in the line-up there is a dark horse who might surprise us all, but they'd better get a move on. Mind you, with Ireland in its present mood, I guess we should be grateful that the electorate aren't being given the option to vote for Ivana Bacik, Panti Bliss or Dustin the Turkey.

A major problem is that we don't have a clear idea of what the presidency is about. At least in the United Kingdom, where I live, the role of the monarchy is clear. As the great Walter Bagehot pointed out in the 1860s, while the government was the ''efficient part" of the constitution - that is, it ran the joint - the monarchy was the "dignified part", whose job was to "excite and preserve the reverence of the population". The Queen is bred to understand the limitations as well as the requirements of her office, and neither thinks she's in charge nor wants to be. And the populace in general is very happy with an arrangement that offers continuity and spares us the dangers of being saddled with an unknown quantity.

You can see the great advantages of this separation when you look, for instance, at France, Russia and the US. Like many a president before him, Emmanuel Macron is showing distinct signs of longing to be an all-powerful emperor, and, as he orders executions, Vladimir Putin behaves like one.

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