Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins has expressed his concerns about exploitation of the “politics of fear” and times of economic hardship, referring to Donald Trump, poverty in America, European economics and vulture funds.
The Irish leader believes that the world may be about to shift in a very dangerous direction, alluding to several forces and phenomena that might pose a threat to democracy and democratic values.
Speaking on David McWilliams new TV show, "Agenda" on TV3, Higgins said, “I think between 2008 and 2011 the number in poverty in the United States went from 11 percent to just under 15 percent.
“So you either lift them out of that, or you do the other thing.
“That is you seek to exploit it in a politics of fear,” he continued. “And, we see the politics of fear in the demagoguery of the United States.
“We see the politics of fear equally in relation to the anti-immigrant, the anti-refugee thinking that is going on in so many European countries.
“The choice is between the politics of fear and the politics of integration, in very much a fractured world,” he said.
Higgins was the first guest on the inaugural program and was interviewed on the big themes featured in his new book, "When Ideas Matter." The book also touches on the timely topic of the plight of refugees. The Irish President said he remains optimistic that people would be open to new ideas about economics, which are logical and measurable, but he warned that there was a danger that the world would go the other way.
He said, “It’s capable of giving us the nightmare that we had, that gave us fascism and racism.”
During the Sunday interview Higgins also warned about an unregulated global economy, where vulture funds can usurp democracy. He was also critical of the European Central Bank’s “extraordinary structure” and said there was a real problem with the disconnect between the European Commission and the people on the street.
Thousand of families face eviction as Ulster Bank sells homes to vulture funds https://t.co/6vR5uvgGr9— Bank of island (@Bankofisland) October 14, 2016
He spoke about how the difficulties involved in lifting people out of poverty, providing them with decent employment prospects, and enabling people to live with a sense of security when there were unaccountable forces in power.
Higgins asked, “The question that arises is where do you stand in relation to the idea of having unrestrained, unaccountable vulture funds that affect the welfare of your people?”
He said emphasized the importance of cohesion of the European Union, which he says has been strained in recent years, and he expressed concern about the high rate of youth unemployment across the continent.
“If you are in favor of a social market you need to put all your emphasis on social cohesion,” he said.
When asked by McWilliams if he was worried the world would shift in a very dangerous direction in the coming year, Higgins said, “I think it is quite possible.”
On Monday, in a speech to mark UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Higgins spoke about how people are being insulted by the social welfare system and criticized the overly complicated procedures and layers of red tape blocking people from vital public services.
He said, "When people living in poverty are treated as numerical units or administrative cases; when they are forced to jump multiple and difficult hurdles in order to claim financial benefits to which they are entitled... we insult and demean those amongst us who are guilty of nothing except living, day in day out, below the poverty line…
"When a citizen experiencing poverty is not enabled to exercise their voice, or to claim their rights and entitlements... they have been failed by a society that claims to operate on the principles of a democratic republic."
These words were part of his address given at the Famine memorial on Dublin's Custom House Quay.