Tuesday 21 August 2018

Let in the light on President's office

President Michael D Higgins. Photo: Arthur Carron
President Michael D Higgins. Photo: Arthur Carron
Editorial

Editorial

As it now seems certain that there will be a presidential election later this year, it is a good time to state that the office of the President of Ireland should be absolutely transparent and, as it is the recipient of significant public funds, should no longer be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. At a minimum, the publication of such information would assist the public in their understanding of the office and its functions, something which is to be recommended.

Ireland has been well served by its presidents back to the election of the first, Douglas Hyde, who held the office from 1938 to 1945. Indeed, all the presidents have notably contributed to the office and are held in high regard by the public, notwithstanding the occasional controversy, some of which were more serious than others. The high regard for the office was particularly evident in recent decades following the election of this country's first female President, Mary Robinson (1990-1997) and her successor, Mary McAleese (1997-2011). In many ways, these women helped to redefine the office and made it more relevant at a time when it had become somewhat remote from the people.

Similarly, the current President, Michael D Higgins, has come to be affectionately regarded by the public after his successful first term, during which he has also brought his unique, although occasionally controversial, sensibility to the office. But he too has been an admirable President, no less appropriate and of his time than were his predecessors, a particular high point being his attendance and speech at a state banquet in Windsor Castle which cemented good relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom after many difficult decades.

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