A selection of the country’s leading musicians and cultural figures on why Michael D. Higgins remains the right man to represent Ireland.
With the Presidential election in the offing, a selection of the country’s leading musicians and cultural figures explain why Michael D. Higgins remains the right man to represent Ireland. In addition, Stephen Porzio meets the people on the frontlines of the housing crisis.
CONOR J. OʼBRIEN
I absolutely and unequivocally endorse Michael D and will vote for him to be president. I am currently proud to live in a country in which a man of such articulacy, grace and wisdom serves as a cultural ambassador, and shines a light on the creativity and diversity of this little island of ours. Plus he’s not afraid to call a spade a spade, or, in some cases, a w*nker a w*nker.
NIAMH FROM HAMSANDWICH
I will be voting for Michael D in the presidential election this October. The president of Ireland should reflect the country and I think Micheal D does this perfectly. He is a massive supporter of the creative arts in Ireland. Whether it be music, art or poetry, he understands that Ireland’s strengths lie in its artistic nature. He has a beautiful way with words and he’s just an allround wonderful human being. I am proud that he is our president, so long may it continue.
Micheal D is the bees knees. He’s huggable yet presidential. He has as much enthusiasm for Ireland as Ireland had for him. The whole time I’ve been alive Ireland had had great presidents, the two Marys and miggeldy. He’s well able to continue. I want Lynn Ruane next.
Yes, I will be voting for Michael D again this time. In my opinion he has been a wonderful president. He began his term roughly three years after the country had been brought to its knees by the banking system, and destroyed by greed and light touch regulation. We were in full austerity mode and for many in Ireland today, this is still the case. Michael D’s inaugural speech at Dublin Castle on November 11, 2011 should be read again. This particular passage resonated with me:
“.... in more recent years, we saw the rise of a different kind of individualism – closer to an egotism based on purely material considerations – that tended to value the worth of a person in terms of the accumulation of wealth rather then their fundamental dignity. That was our loss, the source in part, of our
present difficulties. Now it is time to turn to an older wisdom that, while respecting material comfort and security as a basic right of all, also recognises that many of the most valuable things in life cannot be measured.”
The gombeen man is alive and well and hovering at the threshold. We see hotels and student accommodation being built while families are homeless. NAMA has sold off properties to foreign vulture funds at firesale prices. The attempt to control spiralling rents has been a failure and many are stuck in the vicious cycle of working just to pay the rent.
I am utterly disappointed and disillusioned with this government and feel their priorities are business before people. Now more than ever we need an antidote to all that in the Áras. Someone who can echo the words of James Connolly when he said that: “Ireland without her people means nothing to me”. That antidote is Michael D. Higgins.
After having heard him speak a few times, I can say I am supporting a man who’s not just passionate about the art that I love, but a man who’s passionate about people. An imperative trait in a President.
I’d like to show support for Michael D. Higgins for the upcoming presidential campaign. It’s very encouraging to see a president show a lot of support for diversity in arts and culture throughout his past term, and I’d love to see that continue. Change is often good but when something is good, why change it? Vote Michael D. Higgins.
In my mind Micheal D Higgins is the only contender we have for the presidency of Ireland. A poet, intellectual and compassionate man, who clearly loves the people who reside on this island. He embodies everything we have to be proud of about this country, and in turn has made me feel very proud to be Irish today.
Michael D. Higgins’ statement after the referendum at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul – “We must unequivocally recognise that gender equality is a right and not a gift” – moved me to believe, beyond a doubt, that this is the only man to represent our country. He is the model ambassador for 21st century Ireland.
I send these words out into the ether as a sign of love and support for President Michael D. Higgins as he prepares for re-election. In my eyes he is a champion for the arts; the unsung heroes in our communities; and the Irish language and its relevance in modern Ireland.
He gives voice to the concerns of Ireland’s citizens and stands among them as an equal, when so many in government fail to mutter or manifest a single original or inspired idea that might benefit us as a nation.
He is an incredibly intelligent and articulate soul, and having met him and spent time with him, he strikes me as being devoid of pretense and ego. He is deeply passionate about other human beings and wishes to push the office of the president to its limits; he wants to be more than just a silent decoration. He is openhearted, welcoming, intelligent and proud.
JOSEPH OʼCONNOR, NOVELIST
Earlier this year I spoke at an event at Francis Street Christian Brothers’ School in the Liberties. The school, which my father attended in the 1940s, was celebrating its 200th anniversary. President Higgins and his wife Sabina were the guests of honour.
The President spoke with warmth and passion of the importance of education in his own early life, and the immense value of reading (‘you’re never alone once you’ve a book,’ he remarked), but what struck me most forcefully was the time he spent informally with the schoolchildren.
After the ceremony he and his wife went around the room, patiently, gently, speaking to every single child gathered for this special day. Some addressed him in Irish, and he conversed with them comfortably. Some were the children of immigrants to our country. He took time.
He laughed a lot. He listened quietly. It was a remarkably moving morning and I’ll never forget
“MORE STRAIGHTFORWARD TALKING LIKE THAT FROM OTHER POLITICIANS WOULD BE VERY WELCOME.”
it. There were no camera crews or reporters. Just the children and their teachers. It would have meant so much to my late Francis Street grandparents that the President of Ireland visited the school to which they sent their sons. Michael D is the first who ever did.
During his time as a TD he lost his seat rather than abandon his stance for women’s rights. He has always stood up for the dispossessed. He’s brave. He’s tough. It’s why young people get him. His interest in culture is heartfelt and committed. He was the best Arts Minister we’ve ever had.
He’s a likable, independently minded, serious man. By which I mean he doesn’t play the eejit, as some politicians do. His speeches don’t talk down. You’re invited to listen up. When he represents us on the world stage, I feel people see the best of us: inclusiveness, intelligence, integrity and compassion.
The President of Ireland is a mostly ceremonial role; he is an ambassador who should represent what is great about this country. And I think that for the last seven years, Michael D has done a bang-up job. He’s brilliant. It’s like he was genetically created in a lab for the sole purpose of being the President of Ireland.
He’s warm, cultured, intelligent and empathetic. He is a long-time human rights activist, and a strong supporter of the arts, plus he can bang out a poem as gaelige at the drop of a flatcap. Imagine one of them business lads from Dragons Den shaking hands with Premier Li and reading out a poem they wrote.
God almighty. The only reason to vote for Sean Gallagher is because he has a perfectly round head and it would fit very nicely on a €2 coin, if we ever decide to put presidents on money. We need to support the arts in this country, and we need a president who understands the importance of the unique and influential voices of Irish artists.
For me there is one and only one viable candidate running for President of Ireland, Mr. Michael D. Higgins. It has been an absolute pleasure and privilege to live in Ireland during his presidency and to have been able to directly witness and experience the dignity and humanity with which he has fulfilled his role. I hasten to add that any comparison with the current American President brings this feeling into even sharper focus.
During the past year or two I have attended several men’s and women’s sporting events where Mr. Higgins was present, several cultural events where he was in attendance and at least three funerals where he was present, representing the Irish Government. He has maintained a very high public profile throughout his presidency, while always remaining respectfully focused on the event or commemoration he was attending, rather than drawing attention to his own presence.
In his former role as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Arts, I got the opportunity to watch him in action at close range. Several times I approached him asking for his support for artistic or musical projects I was involved with, and in each case he came through for me with no hesitation, and with no strings attached.
Simply by lending his moral support to an artistic project, and by endorsing it, he imbued the project with credibility and legitimacy which helped it get off the ground. He is the only Minister for the Arts who has ever done anything remotely like that for me personally; and for that alone he has my support and my vote.
I was very impressed by Mr. Higgins’ reaction when Fidel Castro died and most of the world’s leaders universally condemned the communist leader. Michael D. Higgins retained his dignity and spoke in positive and respectful terms of Castro’s accomplishments in the face of extreme adversity. At that moment he retained Ireland’s dignity as a whole, as he spoke eloquently and intelligently, and most of all with humanity, regarding Castro’s conflicted life and legacy.
Finally, I would like to admit that Mr. Higgins made me laugh out loud with pleasure recently when I saw him on the news. While campaigning for re-election, he was being antagonised by a reporter who kept firing questions at him about whether or not he was planning to publish a report regarding finances. He dismissed the reporter with a withering: “I just gave you all the information, so if you want to see it published, off you go!”
More straightforward talking like that from other politicians would be a very welcome development in Ireland, and on the world stage as a whole.
When I’m abroad on tour, I love telling people that our President is a poet. It makes me proud that here in Ireland we elected a person who values the arts; it makes me proud that that’s the person we chose to represent us here at home; and it makes me proud that he is our voice to the world. Michael D. does us proud and I’ll certainly be voting for him in October.
I’ll be voting for Michael D because I consider him to be the most suitable candidate for the job by far. He has done a brilliant job as President of Ireland for the last seven years, and he has made me very proud on many occasions. I admire his genuine passion for the Irish language, culture, music, poetry and the arts.
Alison Spittle (Centre)
Niamh from Hamsandwich
Conor J O’Brien Rocstrong
Joseph O’Connor, novelist