All kinds of everything – the farce of the Irish Presidential election

To call a rabid, anti-West, terror-sympathising friend of tyrants, ‘Mr Safe Hands’ is tragically absurd, and insults the integrity of any thinking person.

Higgins protesting George Bush and US troops.
Bernard Mccabe
On 3 November 2011 12:54

On the 27th October, after an arduous campaign, Ireland elected her 9th President.

The choice faced by the Irish people was fairly extraordinary, a motley crew of Europhiles, allegedly corrupt businesspeople, a former IRA terrorist, a Eurovision song contest winner, a committed socialist and an eccentric Joycean who appealed for clemency for his lover who had committed statutory rape.

This ‘All Kinds of Everything’ assortment certainly made for an interesting campaign but when faced with a selection of crony capitalists, cranks and crooners, the electorate inevitably bedevils an existential crisis, in the knowledge that whoever is elected will be at best controversial, and at worst inadequate.

The winner, poet, academic and radical socialist Michael D. Higgins, surged through in the end, due to the collapse of ‘dragon’ Sean Gallagher’s campaign a few days before polls opened.

BBC Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson referred to him as ‘Mr Safe Hands’, and in the fashion we know all too well from our impartial and beloved BBC, he was described as ‘oozing trust, authority and dignity’. The Irish media establishment largely agrees with this analysis; he is a noble, knowledgeable and nuanced statesman.

To an extent, I agree. He is certainly very polite and diplomatic when talking of his ideological heroes Castro or Ortega. This ‘dignity’ is also exemplified in his refusal to condemn Jew-killing, gay-killing, Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

In fact, only a noble statesman would have the temerity to call someone a ‘w****r’ for supporting the war on terror and small government, as the President-elect did, publicly, less than a year ago.

Such a sound-bite may seem trivial, but if the USA elects a Republican next year, would he/she be welcome in Ireland? If Michael D had his way, probably not.

He has form in this area. In 2004, as Irish Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman, he condemned the Iraq war, which he says was an act of ‘destruction on the civil society of Iraq’ (civil society being obviously so vibrant under Saddam Hussein). The press release finishes with:

As our Government sits down with George Bush, author of all this illegality and immorality, they cannot be trusted to say what we say, in public demonstrations around the world – Your War is wrong………all war is wrong and on all of these grounds George Bush, you are not welcome in Ireland.”

So US Presidents (presumably Obama is deplorable too, after all, he has continued the war on terror) are not welcome in Ireland, on the basis that taking out brutal tyrants is illegal and immoral.

Western governments who go to war are not welcome in his presence, unlike Tariq Aziz - who he was more than happy to meet less than a decade ago. One wonders whether he would be brazen enough to call a close ally of a genocidal monster a ‘w****r’?

As is so tragically to be expected with anyone on the far left, this same principle is applied to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel gets the predictable attacks from Michael D, who has on plenty of occasions called Israel an ‘apartheid’ state, called for an embargo on Israel and openly supported the BDS movement, whilst attending hate-fests like a candlelit vigil for Yasser Arafat and sharing a platform with Hezbollah.

It is worth remembering that the President plays a ceremonial and symbolic role, like the British monarch without the gravitas.

This means, thankfully, Michael D Higgins will not be able to single handedly bring about the new ‘socialist Ireland’ he talked about in his first radio interview as President-Elect.

But symbols are still important.

Veteran commentator Eoghan Harris infamously lamented the outgoing President’s rise in politics and called her a “tribal time bomb”.

After her exemplary record during the peace process negotiations in Northern Ireland, he was proven wrong and has become an admirer of her tenure. I hope I am wrong about Michael D Higgins.

I hope that in seven years time I can praise him as a unifying figure that Ireland can be proud of.

But to call a rabid, anti-West, terror-sympathising friend of tyrants, ‘Mr Safe Hands’ is tragically absurd, and insults the integrity of any thinking person. 

Ben McCabe is a London-based Irish writer. He tweets at @bernardmccabe

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