Ireland’s President, Michael D Higgins, has spoken out against accusations that his comments on the austerity policy imposed by Europe went beyond the constitutional remit of his office.
"I don't think there is a speech I have given in the last three months that has the word austerity in it," the President said in Cork on Saturday.
Two senior government ministers, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, supported Higgins in his stance against austerity.
The Irish Independent reports that Rabbitte blasted the "lethargic response" of the European Central Bank and other European institutions and Varadkar warned that austerity was not the solution.
President Higgins sought to defend statements he made critiquing the social and moral consequences of austerity by defining the role of President in relation to Government: "I don't ever interfere on a matter of legislation . . . I don't see any reason as to why anyone should be confused about it at all."
Higgins also said that he has two-hour meetings every six weeks with the Irish prime minister Enda Kenny, during which they talk about "the present state of Europe."
"The Government does what the Government does . . . I have a very positive relationship under Article 28 of the Constitution with the Taoiseach.
"I don't understand some of the conjecture that people have because I have to say our meetings are very positive.
"Our offices are independent. I am the President and my responsibility is to try and address the issues generally.
"On the Government's side the present Taoiseach is in fact responsible for constructing the legislation of the day."
Higgins added: "I have great confidence in my ability to put my own positions. I am really taking seriously the oath I took when I entered office, to use my abilities for the welfare of the people of Ireland."
Last week in the Dail, Opposition tried to raise the issue of the president's statements but were ruled out of order.