President Michael D Higgins’ job is “not to make off-the-cuff comments” about Government policy.
That’s according to Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell, who said the President “100% crossed the line” when he said Ireland was “playing with fire” in its “drift” towards NATO and away from neutrality.
“He moved the office of the President into the political arena,” Mr Craughwell told The Hard Shoulder.
“Anything he has said before has been relative to internal policy - and his job as head of state is to stay out of that sort of thing.
“But in this instance, he has stepped into the international and he has had to apologise internationally to a highly qualified individual.”
The President criticised the amount of military personnel attending the upcoming consultative forum on Irish neutrality. He also criticised the chairperson of the forum, Dame Louise Richardson – and has since apologised.
“He said it was an off-the-cuff comment,” Mr Craughwell, “His job is to act as our President and not to make off-the-cuff comments.”
Irish Anti-War Movement Co-Chair Mark Price said the President’s criticisms were “inspiring”.
“The President is like a non-executive director of a company,” he said. “We look him to give guidance.
“In the way that Mary McAleese made comments about inequality and poverty, I think his comments are inspiring.
“They refer us back to the commitment of the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes in our constitution.”
Mr Price said President Higgins was right to criticise the level of military personnel at the upcoming forum.
“Every single speaker, bar one, is either associated with NATO or the military or is on record saying that we should join NATO.”
Both Mr Craughwell and Mr Price agreed Irish neutrality should be maintained.
“We have nothing to bring to NATO, but we are the largest aircraft carrier in the world,” Mr Craughwell said.
“If you want to attack east to west or west to east, the airports would be gone like that and taken over by whoever side wanted to attack first.”
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