Mitchell defends EU role in Irish affairs

Sat, Aug 13, 2011, 01:00

FINE GAEL presidential candidate Gay Mitchell yesterday defended the European Union’s role in Ireland’s affairs following eurosceptic comments made this week by potential fellow Áras candidate Gay Byrne.

“I think they are mad to some extent,” Mr Mitchell said during an interview on RTÉ’s Today with Pat Kennyradio show.

Mr Mitchell was referring to remarks made by Mr Byrne when he expressed concerns about the development of the EU and said Ireland was being “run by mad people in Brussels”.

“I think we have a serious problem when we start blaming other people, particularly when we start blaming the people who have given us the tools to dramatically change this country,” he said.

“Things that went wrong with this country were not entirely our own fault but they were mainly our own fault. We didn’t manage the resources we got.”

The Fine Gael candidate said that, if elected, he would draw upon his experience as an elected representative to encourage recovery by promoting a framework based on four pillars of enterprise, social justice, rights, and responsibilities.

Dismissing his poor showing in recent opinion polls, Mr Mitchell said presidential opinion polls do not reflect the final result. While he said he wouldn’t “take a mortgage out” based on the poll results to date, Mr Mitchell was confident of a good showing on election day.

“People are not engaged with this election. When the real election comes people will engage. And, as happened in every other presidential election, these polls will wax and wane, and we will do far better.”

The Fine Gael candidate was queried about his Christian Democratic credentials and his relationship with Dr Alveda King, an American Christian minister known for her extreme views on homosexuality and religion. Dr King spoke at a forum in Dublin last year.

Mr Mitchell said he has no relationship with Dr King and that she was just one of a number of people who spoke at a forum organised by the Working Group on Human Dignity of which Mr Mitchell is chairman.

Dr King, who is the niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, has in the past compared gay marriage with genocide and said that God hates homosexuality.

Mr Mitchell said he was not aware of those comments but said he disagreed with them.

“I don’t agree with them, I don’t share them . . . they are not reasonable views at all. They are quite outrageous views,” he added.

When asked whether he would sign an abortion Bill if it came before him, Mr Mitchell said that as president, he would have a sworn duty to uphold the Constitution and the law and if he had doubts about it that he would refer it to the Council of State and then to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court deemed it legal, he would sign it, he said.

Mr Mitchell defended a letter he wrote to the governor of Florida in 2003 asking him to take a convicted murderer off death row. Paul Hill was convicted of the murder of two people outside an abortion clinic in 1994.

Saying he has “constantly campaigned against the death penalty”, Mr Mitchell said it was his belief that putting people to death was “barbaric”. He also said he would be “absolutely shocked” if Labour Party candidate Michael D Higgins would not do the same.

His views on same-sex marriage were also queried. Mr Mitchell said he did not want to do anything that “weakens marriage” but had supported civil partnership. He said the country should take time to assess its impact before taking any further steps.

“Let the hare sit, let’s see if there are any problems with this,” he said. “Let’s be reasonable and open minded about it but I do not want to do anything that will weaken marriage.”

“I’m open minded on the idea – in time,” he added.

Asked about his views on neutrality, Mr Mitchell said that while he would not support membership of Nato, “it would be very silly” for Ireland not to join a European common defence alliance if the country was in a position to negotiate its own terms of entry.

Mr Mitchell refused to be drawn on his relationship to the convicted criminal George Mitchell. “I don’t think you should put this question to me, this is a matter of record. I have nothing to do with my cousins. I have cousins who play international rugby for Ireland – none of them have anything to do with me.”