I like and admire Uachtarán an hÉireann, Michael D. Higgins. I actually voted for him (well, he was my second choice thanks to an electoral system based upon proportional representation, a system we wrongly take for granted). He is a fine politician, a thinker, writer, poet and standard-bearer for those laudable values of Irish character and culture that were tarnished or forgotten during the hedonistic heyday of the Celtic Tiger. However like many on the Left of Irish politics he tends to suffer from “far away” syndrome. President Higgins in Ireland is indelibly associated with a series of historic campaigns against oppression and injustice around the globe, including the Apartheid regime in White-minority South Africa, the US-backed Contras in Nicaragua and the illegal Israeli Occupation of those regions designated as belonging to a Palestinian state. Yet when it came to oppression and injustice closer to home, indeed on his own island-nation…
Which brings me to a post by Jude Collins, author and journalist, noting the visit by the President of Ireland to El Salvador and his enthusiastic greeting by the former guerrillas of Latin America. It was by all accounts a particularly emotional visit for An Uachtarán as he embraced revolutionaries and insurgents he had not seen in many years, a triumphal justification of his long years of activism. But to paraphrase Jude: where was Michael D. Higgins during the war? The Irish war, that is. Supporting “armed struggle” in other lands and amongst other peoples, like many “purists” on the Irish Left, while studiously avoiding that which was taking place in his own homeland?
Indeed years after the Peace Process in Ireland reached fruition Michael D. Higgins as a member of Dáil Éireann in 2007 could still declare with no sense of shame or remorse that:
“Hamas is more advanced than the IRA.”
Michael D. Higgins is a great man. But even the great can have feet of clay.