"I will vote Number One for him... as modern developments globally prove, principled presidents are thin on the ground at present."
For whatever reason, I heave a huge sigh of relief close to joy and pride this week as an Irishman as I salute the principled and powerful performance in office of our president, Michael D. Higgins.
The world is painfully coming to terms recently with the consequences of the actions and inactions of other presidents who occupy infinitely more powerful posts than our Michael D., and I am not looking in any specific direction when I state that reality.
Indeed, as I write, I recall an opinion voiced in The Washington Post away back in 2011 when Michael D. became our spiritual figurehead. That opinion was that we had elected a leprechaun as our leader.
It is a physical fact that Michael D. stands just five feet four inches high, is now in his early seventies, and limps more than a little because of an old knee injury but, in all fairness, we elected a giant of a man to office when we sent him to the Áras six or seven years ago. We should all be eternally grateful for that.
Now the nation is waiting for him to declare if he will decide to run again for a second term when the current term expires in a few months. Way back at the beginning of this term he said that he would not run again. Many of us hope he changes his mind for the good of his nation and our world standing.
I recall a quote from him recently when he remarked that the years of a life were not as relevant at all as the life in the years already lived. On that score, he still has a lot to offer us in the years ahead.
This Limerick-born citizen who was raised in Clare and who survived a lot of hard times in his youth has certainly been a different class of president to many others right from the beginning of his presidency. It is a fact, for example, that the man wrote one of his first letters to the government upon taking office to request that his salary is reduced!
Has any other president anywhere, anytime, taken that stance? I rather doubt it, especially nowadays.
He is currently paid, I understand, in the region of roughly 305,000 U.S. dollars per annum, and sure that is an amount that some of his peers would spend a month. From lowly beginnings where every penny counted, Michael D. converted the life in his years into top status as a politician, academic, poet, writer and thinker about the real moralities of our mortalities on this earth.
To my shame nowadays, I have to confess here and now that I resided in his Galway West constituency during his decades as the Labour Party standard-bearer in the west and I never once voted for him. I never even once gave him a “stroke” on even one of the lower preferences on our complicated PR system.
This is because I was then blindly a Fianna Fáil supporter—God forgive me now—and residing in one of the strongest Fianna Fáil heartlands in which Michael D. was soundly hammered in general election after general election, often being one of the first to be eliminated from the counts.
Back then though, working as the correspondent in the west for The Irish Press newspaper of the de Valera dynasty, I still saluted the dignity with which the little man accepted all his defeats and honorably kept coming back for more. In the end that courage and quality triumphed in the fashion which so benefits Ireland today when quality presidents seem to be thin on the ground globally.
I rapidly departed from Fianna Fáil forever at the pit of the Haughey era and see those times differently now. I take some solace from the truth that in my coverage of politics down those years I was always fair and accurate in my coverage of Michael D.’s campaigns, and we became quite friendly during the years when he was a sociology lecturer in University College Galway and residing in Salthill.
He indeed provided me with some very interesting yarns during that time, most of them dealing with intriguing elements of the diaspora not readily available elsewhere. I can even recall visiting himself and his wife Sabina in their modest home on a day when both of them were momentarily distracted during a diaper-changing operation and, being in that phase of life myself at home, competently changing the diaper on one of their four young children whilst they were coping in the next room.
Like myself, I believe that Michael D. himself became a Fianna Fáil supporter during his early years as a student in UCG (NUIG). The commitment to Labour came later, so in those years when we first met, he probably totally knew that I had never voted for him.
However, in this space, in tribute to his splendid service to Ireland during his presidency to date, I hereby urge him to run for a second term for the good of the nation and solemnly swear here and now that, if there is a contest for the post, I will vote Number One for him for the first time in my life because, indeed, as modern developments globally prove, principled presidents are thin on the ground at present.
Would you vote Michael D Higgins in for a second term? Who else would make a good President of Ireland? Let us know in the comments section below.