sale serif;”>Conor Fox interviews presidential hopeful Michael D. Higgins
capsule serif;”>The Labour Party’s candidate to contest the presidential election on the 27th October, Michael D. Higgins, describes his vision for the presidency as “one of inclusive citizenship, in a creative society, appropriate for a real republic that represents Ireland to the outside world.” While it’s never entirely clear what exactly defines a real republic, his pride in being Irish resonates through all that he says.
Favourite band/musician: Luke Kelly.
Campaign song: People are always telling me we should get the Sawdoctors to do an updated version of ‘Michael D rockin’ in the Dail” !
Three famous people alive or dead to dinner: Noel Browne, John O’Donohue and Eric Cantona.
Superpower: Bilocation would be quite useful at the moment!
Michael D expresses the opinion that “Ireland’s image abroad has been somewhat damaged in recent years by the failures of a narrow individualist version of the economy and society.”
In his view, the candidate who is elected President will have to play a vital role in strengthening and restoring Ireland’s reputation abroad. He believes there is potential for Ireland to continue to show leadership in areas such as global hunger eradication, peace building and democracy.
Martin Sheen has endorsed Mr Higgins, saying that “a vote for Michael is a vote for real Ireland.” Michael D has expressed his delight over this endorsement, hoping to “live up to some of the vigour and leadership [Sheen] portrays in his role as President Bartlett in the West Wing.”
A question which has been asked recently is what relevance the office of the president holds to the youth of Ireland; furthermore, as a presidential candidate must be over thirty five years of age, is it possible for them to truly understand young people? Higgins strongly believes that the Presidency has relevance to every citizen of Ireland regardless of age. “The Presidency is not about one person, but about who we are as a people and what we want to become.”
For Michael D, understanding young people is about being open to new thinking and listening to other. “In that sense, I have always been aware of and interested in the concerns and ideas of young people in Ireland.” He has stated that he will work as president to increase the confidence of Ireland’s youth in their ability to shape the future and also attempt to “encourage greater intergenerational co-operation and respect between the generations.”
In addition to this, on a number of occasions Mr Higgins has declared that when choosing his presidential nominees for the Council of State he will “ensure that every age group will be represented”. A former lecturer of NUI Galway, Higgins mentions this along with his work with Hot Press magazine as helping him retain a connection with young people.
Attendees at Electric Picnic may also have seen the presidential candidate in the mud and he refers to the “great conversations” he had with young people there. Higgins is also a self-confessed fan of Irish band The Kanyu Tree and Lisa Hannigan’s “wonderful” voice.
The office of the President has been criticised in the past for the cost associated with it, particularly in the area of travel and security. Higgins states that if elected, he will seek an audit of the expenses and attempt to cutback any unnecessary and extravagant costs, believing that the President’s office should “reflect and respond to the economic realities that the rest of the nation is experiencing”.
A former Senator, TD (representing the Galway West constituency) and Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Mr Higgins argues that his life has been devoted to public service and that it is that “experience and commitment” which he will use to “represent Ireland with distinction and imagination.”
The Saw Doctors may have sung that Michael D. was “Rocking in the Dáil” but the question is: will he get the votes to rock the Áras?