MICHAEL D has New Irish Vote
2017-11-15 16:25:05 -

By Chinedu Onyejelem

The majority of new Irish citizens say they would fully support President Michael D Higgins if he decides to run for a second term.


In a recent opinion poll of voters across Ireland’s new communities conducted by Metro Éireann, nearly two-thirds (64%) of the 50 respondents said he should be given the opportunity to continue.


However, over a third (36%) were in the opposite camp and said he would not get their support.


President Higgins, 76, is a veteran of Irish left-wing politics, as well as an experienced human rights campaigner and an accomplished poet. He was elected on 29 October 2011 for a seven-year term.


Most of those respondents who would support a second term said it was because of his tremendous achievements thus far. 


“I think he should go on … in the great tradition of all wise men who worked right until the real mature age of well into their 80s,” said actor and filmmaker Siraj Zaidi. “He is a poet, a scholar, and previous Minister of Arts and Culture. He has served well as a President of Ireland in his current tenure. He would do a fine job in his next term.”


“He has championed social justice and equality causes, both at a national and international level, more than any other Irish President I have known,” added a female respondent who did not wish to be named. “He has done well in portraying a positive, forward-thinking image of Ireland at a global level. I think, he should be given the opportunity to build on that before passing on to a new President.”


However, those who object to President Higgins’ serving a second term raise his age — already a decade past the standard retirement age of 66 — as a significant factor.


“Running for another seven years would be too much for him,” said Peter Ozonyia, a doctoral researcher and teaching assistant at Trinity College Dublin, who was quick to add his praise for President Higgins’ efforts in championing an inclusive society.


“He truly deserves a big rest and full retirement from active political life.”


Ozonyia’s views were supported by another anonymous respondent, who urged the President “to sit aside, guide and encourage the younger generation of politicians while holidaying and enjoying his life and family.”


Others were not so complementary. “He is a person of great accomplishment in his youthful days. But not much [has been] accomplished since he assumed the Presidency,” said Olubukola Ashaolu-Shopeju. “I would suggest giving a youthful [prospect] with great record and a zeal to live up to the responsibility required for the running of State affairs the chance to serve.”


Solicitor Oliver Orji said he would appose a second term on principle “on the premise that he made it public during the 2011 Presidential contest that he will serve one term.


“For once, I prefer to see a situation where a politician kept to his promise. By keeping his words, he surely preserves his integrity and will be honoured by history. The bookies seem to believe that he may win the contest again, but my personal opinion would be for him to step aside. But guess what? I am not a politician. My view may not count.”


During the survey, a number of respondents suggested prospective alternative candidates for the Irish Presidency. One prominent immigrant clergyman said he would prefer either former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern or past Justice Minister Alan Shatter, while others suggested Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, previous Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former Progressive Democrats TD and current Senator Michael McDowell.


For Dr Harry Browne of Centre for Critical Media Literacy at DIT, only a candidate from the real left would be a sensible alternative to President Higgins. 


“Even given the high standards set by his predecessors, Michael D Higgins has been a better president than we had any reason to expect,” he said. “He has used the office to highlight important issues, groups and causes, sometimes provocatively, but without getting into any serious trouble. In the absence of any obviously electable successor from the genuine Left, I’d be happy to see him carry on.”


As the speculation about President Higgins’ future goes on, a former Mayor of Portlaoise urged voters to allow the man time to decide his own fate. 


“The question of re-contest or not can only be answered by President Michael D himself,” Rotimi Adebari told Metro Éireann. “He’s not a young man and he’s the only one that knows what his body is saying to him. 


“Whatever that is, he’s to make that decision and people have a choice to say yes, carry on, or no, give someone else a chance.”




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