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Carol Hunt: Our President is well able to shoulder jokes about his height (or lack of it)


Professor Michael D Higgins at the All-Ireland football final last September

Professor Michael D Higgins at the All-Ireland football final last September

Oliver Callan

Oliver Callan


Professor Michael D Higgins at the All-Ireland football final last September

Poor President Higgins. My heart is half broken for the man.

Seemingly our diminutive head of state is a victim of "toxic bullying" and harassment.

Whew, that's a pretty strong accusation, isn't it? What on earth is going on in the Aras these days? There I was thinking that Michael D was one of the most popular presidents we've ever had.

Well, comedian Oliver Callan - among others - has been lampooning Michael D in sketches, making much of the fact that the President is knee-high to a grasshopper.

As a person who only hits five foot three on a tall day, I can sympathise. My lack of inches in the height department has provided years of humourless (in my opinion) quips from both family and friends.

Still, their enthusiasm to belittle (geddit) my lack of growth keeps them amused and in the interest of free speech and the entertainment of the easily distracted, I have never tried to prevent them from engaging in their little amusements.

Which was why I was so surprised to hear that a pal of Michael D wasn't at all amused by Callan's sketches.

The President's friend, Abbot Mark Patrick Hederman of Glenstal Abbey, is downight offended.

Last Sunday he wrote: "Laughing at someone's height is unacceptable in general, but when it comes to the elected head of State, it enters an area of insult and defamation which undermines the prestige, authority and influence of the person elected to represent us."


It wha'? The man is surely having a laugh? President Higgins may be small in statue but in every other way he is a giant.

Has anyone ever bested his razor-sharp brain in debate? Not that I've ever heard.

When talents were being handed out, the President hit pay-dirt with an intellect that many a much taller person would gladly lose inches - and quite possibly limbs - for.

If we are to accept that an action can be actually defined as bullying it must contain at least three elements: an imbalance of power, an intent to harm and repetition - even when told to desist.

Now, there is most certainly an imbalance of power between those who dare to lampoon their betters and the President, but it's all in his favour.


Similarly any of the sketches I've seen certainly do not mean to cause harm but rather to entertain viewers while gently sending the President up.

While we may argue about whether it's good comedy or not, we really can't seriously expect to believe that our whip sharp, politically seasoned president could ever be deemed a victim purely because his lack of height features in comedy sketches.

Michael D Higgins has been a politician since before I was born. In all those years he has been able to take every criticism, complaint and jeer thrown at him with aplomb and send them back with vigour and intelligence.

No one person - or office - can be above satire or ridicule, particularly those in authority.

In a week in which we are mourning people who have died for the right to free speech, the complaints of Abbot Hederman about harmless satire directed at his powerful friend seem little more than petty and irrelevant.