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Michael D Higgins admits to smoking marijuana - an interesting blip to an otherwise dull campaign

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Michael D, photoed after his rock 'n roll years

Presidential forerunner Michael D Higgins has admitted to smoking marijuana, an interesting revelation in an otherwise extremely dull campaign.

Higgins now follows in the footsteps of several other political leaders who have capitalized on their ganja-puffing ways to lighten up their image a bit, and appeal to the younger voter, for whom a pro-cannabis stance is usually almost always endearing.

Higgins told the Irish Independent that this happened at Indiana University, though he was careful to add that he had never been in favour of using drugs as a vehicle to expand consciousness, and emphasize that he had never tried LSD even when his friends were experimenting with it.

This unexpected dope-toking surprise comes close on the footsteps of a similarly unexpected revelation that the diminutive and starkly un-rockstar like Michael D had in fact gone through some "rock 'n roll drinking years," to quote his words in another press conference.

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And although picturing Michael D smoking cannabis is about as difficult as imagining how he must have looked while at the height of those glorious 'rock star years', it's probable to say that the answer to the cannabis question was a calculated ploy to endear him to the younger votership, with which he seems to have been finding favour as of late.

A national student poll conducted on third level campuses across Ireland last week ranked Higgins as the students' choice for the job, amassing an impressive 34pc of the student vote, which was perhaps a precursor to his choice to disclose the marijuana episode. Higgins has also been capitalizing on the media ineptitude of his competitors as of late. As scandal now besets Dana, 'Michael D' is practically the only runner left in the field who hasn't suffered a major media controversy.

That should come as no surprise, though. Higgins has largely sat tight during the race and avoided controversy whenever it threatened to stop at his door. The strategy has been boring, but also successful.

But whatever about Higgins' calculation or otherwise in disclosing the cannabis smoking, it seems almost certain that disclosing a mild and preferably marijuana-centered drug-taking past, while underscoring that it was an isolated incident that did not lead to dependence, it a political stratagem which could have been taken straight from Machiavelli's little handbook had it been popular among the political classes of his day (and who knows, maybe it was).

The since-deposed Brian Cowen went on the record before coming to power as being our first Taoiseach to have officially admitted to having smoked cannabis, at a time when there was little else going for him (which, on a side note, after his deposition from office that still holds true). Barack Obama's owning up to smoking cannabis and using  cocaine during his college years, rather than waiting for an artful journalist to find that out in an expose, was been seen by some as a PR key tool in his successful election.

And if admitting to trying marijuana works to mobilize the traditionally stagnant student vote, an Irish politician will be slow to pass up the chance to try it, especially one as crafty as Michael D.

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