The President’s ongoing attempts to expand his role in Ireland are becoming a problem, according to Newstalk presenter Ciara Kelly.
She was speaking after Sabina Higgins’ letter to The Irish Times calling for a negotiated end to the War in Ukraine was published on the official presidential website.
The letter did not include any condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and critics have claimed it suggested that Ukraine and Russia were equally to blame.
President Michael D. Higgins yesterday issued a statement reaffirming his condemnation of what he described as the “illegal, immoral and unjustifiable Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
The statement made no mention of his wife’s letter or the fact that it was published on the official presidential website – and later removed.
“Is being President not enough?”
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, presenter Ciara Kelly said President Higgins has been trying to expand his influence in recent years.
“The Higgins’s - now both of them I think it is fair to say - have been kind of, pushing the envelope,” she said.
“It is sort of as if Michael D. Higgins has been trying to expand the role of president.
“Many of us have pushed back against that. It’s fine if you agree with what he said. He said lots of things on housing etc. that many people agree with – they’re quite populist things he has said - but when he says something that we don’t necessarily agree with, that’s when it becomes apparent that it is a problem.
“I believe it is a problem and I would ask this question. Is being President of Ireland not enough for him?”
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She said President Higgins’ attempts to expand his role are reminiscent of Boris Johnson and other world leaders “looking to expand their positions of power.”
“The President has a role in Ireland,” she said.
“It is a Constitutionally endorsed role in Ireland and I think, to be honest, the President should stay in his road and stay exactly there.
“It should be enough for anyone to be President of Ireland. This pushing the envelope constantly, I believe, is too much. I believe they have overstepped, and I believe a more fulsome statement should be given.
“Not just reiterating the Government position on the war in Ukraine but addressing the issue of the First Lady, if we can call her that, writing letters like this to the paper and indeed then publishing them on the Presidential website.”
Co-presenter Jonathan Healy said Sabina Higgins is entitled to her opinion as a private citizens; however, the “real concern” was the decision to publish it on the President’s official website.
“That made it the opinion of the President of Ireland and that has been seized upon by those who are friends of Russia as being an example of common sense prevailing in another country,” he said.
“That has to be addressed. Why did it go up on the website if it wasn’t the official position?
Again, I’ll go back to my point, Sabina Higgins was not elected to the office of President of Ireland, her husband was. So therefore, she is entitled to her opinion, even if it is a bad one.
“It’s the fact it that it got such publicity that we want to question.”
Earlier on the show, former minister Shane Ross said Sabina Higgins was right to give her opinion on the war – but the letter should not have been published on the Presidential website.