In an extraordinary intervention in the US presidential election Ireland’s president Michael D. Higgins has slammed GOP candidate Donald Trump for fomenting racism.
Higgins made the controversial remarks in an interview with the Sunday Business Post.
Higgins drew the comparison between Famine Irish, especially those who went to Britain, being deeply discriminated against and refugees today.
He stated he fully agreed with the recent speech by United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who warned that Trump was “playing on popular prejudices and fears about migrants in order to win power.”
Higgins stated that targeting the most vulnerable was utterly wrong and the Irish especially knew all about it from their history.
“I think the UN representative has been explicit in actually naming the people who have been using this demagoguery, and I’m very pleased that he has,” Higgins said.
“It has to be challenged, the notion that you can whip up fear of the stranger with total impunity. Those seeds that are being sown are ones that have disastrous consequences."
Comparing today's anti-refugee talk with the the anti-Irish sentiment whipped up against immigrants in Liverpool post Famine where many famine ships docked Higgins said:
“One can easily imagine how a previously welcoming, warm environment could change as a tidal wave of arrivals replaced the previous streams, particularly when a sectarian demagoguery was available to whip up passions Those seeds that are being sown are ones that have disastrous consequences.
“I’m very conscious of migration with my own family. I have grandnephews and grandnieces in England,” he says.
Higgins' intervention in a foreign election is very unusual. The Irish president is deeply constrained, even in the Irish political context, but Higgins has pushed the boundaries of that too, speaking out against the Irish government's harsh austerity programs introduced after the 2008 crash.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny also has a jaundiced view of Trump, calling his views “racist and dangerous” in June of this year.
Higgins lived for a time in America In 1967. He graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington with a Master of Arts degree in Sociology and has kept close contacts with America since.
He was a leading Irish figure against the US backing of Contra guerillas in Nicaragua and also on events in Chile, where an alleged CIA coup removed Salvador Allende the elected leader in 1973..
Higgins, now 75, has been president for five years and had given a series of interviews in connection with that milestone. There is speculation that despite his age he may run for a second term in 2018. He has a very high popularity rating.