Let the new President speak… October 29, 2011Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
…And an interview in the Mail by Jason O’Toole does precisely that. Apparently it took place earlier in the year, so it provides a reasonably recent insight into him when he was still a civilian, albeit with an eye on the Presidency. It covers a range of topics,
Same Sex Marriage and Abortion …
I have no problem whatever either with same sex-marriage. That’s my personal opinion. I also feel — you’ll find it in my poems very much — the price that was paid for this terrible intolerance in Ireland is very high. There are, for example, people for whom all of it has come too late. I go every year to England to meet people who had to leave Ireland to express their sexuality. So, that was an incredible travesty of these people’s right. I also think that if people want to live together in a marriage relationship, I say, ‘Why not?’ In relation to the life of the mother, I think the State has to face up to its responsibilities and legislate for the life of the mother, however complex it is. [Asked if he agreed with the right to abortion] I think it depends on the termination time. It depends on the case. I think the woman has the right to protect her health. I’m in favour of legislation that will not put any risk on the mother’s health.’
‘I’m a spiritual person. I attend Catholic ceremonies. I don’t think that anyone who is serious could say that they weren’t a spiritual person. I don’t think the world we live in can be reduced into a simple material for expression. If you like, the rational world can only bring us so far; there is a transcendent aspect to our existence — things that move you and so forth. I have great respect for the humanist tradition, But I’m not simply a humanist myself. I feel there is an inheritance that comes through the culture of belief systems. So, when you say to me, “Are you a practising (Catholic)?” I wouldn’t know what it was. I don’t believe in heaven and hell. What I think about it is that they don’t enter into my thinking very much. Does life end in the moment of physical death? We’ll continue to speculate on it, but I think that there is a spiritual dimension to our existence that is not turned into physically. That’s as far as I would go.’
His career to [then] date:
‘I have 25 years (as a TD). I stood for the first time in 1969. I was in the Seanad from ’73 to ’77 and from ’82 to ‘87. I was 25 years in the Dáil and nine years in the Seanad. I’ve been a frontbench spokesperson for all of my time. And I’ve also been a minister, as you know, from 1993 to 1997. I’m lodging all my papers in the National Library. They’ve already started. I think over the years I must have about 20 chapters in other people’s books, so then I would have some of the stuff from Hot Press and then I have my own books as well, and I’ve a lot of published poems. And all that stuff is going to the National Library.’
Attacks on him for abolishing Section 31 and establishing TG4- by the way kudos to him for that and interesting who led the charge against him:
… I think that I was treated unfairly about two things — the first is the abolition of the order of Section 31 (of the Broadcasting Act) [forbidding the broadcasting of Sinn Féin members’ voices]. The other thing, which is something I’ve never regretted, is my decision to establish Teilifís na Gaeilge, which is now TG4. There was one edi t ion of the Sunday Independent that had five articles attacking me on one or other of those topics. Some of the stuff was highly personalised.’
A long time wish to be President:
‘My main concern in 2004 — and I think I’ve been proved right — was the discourse that we should be having. I was aware that Ireland had changed and that we were at a very vulnerable stage. In the period between 1997 and 2004, a whole series of things were beginning to shift and you had a kind of radical individualism in the country that was beginning to change everything. So, in 2004 I wanted a campaign in which you would have a debate about what kind of Ireland you wanted. And I feel that we missed an opportunity there. Yes, it did upset me.’
And what he hopes to do in the post:
‘I think I can bring a very positive energy to it. I have very definite views about it. Remember, by training I’m a political scientist, so I know the limitations and the possibilities of the office. In addition, I’ve also been in nearly ever elected office you have. Remember I’ve been on the county council, I was a senator and a Dáil deputy and a minister. I was President of the European Council of Culture Ministers in 1996. I know the institutional grounds — the space, if you like. The President can’t be an organised force of opposition against the government of the day. The oath you take which says that you dedicate yourself to the welfare of the Irish people.
And points to the interesting decade ahead:
You are also able to look at themes that are not arising as problems now. For example, the next President will deal with some very significant dates — 1912, the founding of the Labour Party; 1913, the Lockout; 1914, the Great War; 1916 and so on. If you were to take where we are now in this recession, which has turned into a depression — and I think it is a depression — and if you were trying to say to people: “Look, i t’ s the people who really object to impunity but, that having been said, we move on from recrimination on to envisaging what you’re going to do about the future.” There is scope there and the difference between different versions of the presidency is how you use your discretion. And the discretion is where you make speeches, what topics you pick.
And a troubling political background from his early days which it is astounding didn’t come out during the campaign. OSF? PSF? Why no…:
‘I was a member of the Fianna Fáil Kevin Barry Cumann for about six months in 1966. It was before I went to America. We invited ministers down to tell us about their policies. I remember Seán Flanagan. But they didn’t feel that they were treated with sufficient respect and they reported the cumann. So, I think we would’ve been dumped. I think I was on the way out anyway if I hadn’t gone to America.’