Miriam Lord’s Week: Áras garden party on moral high ground

Michael D Higgins wants his term to be a Presidency of ideas – recognising new paradigms of thought and action

 Leo Varadkar, backed up  Joan Burton  takes to his wheels on a new cycleway. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Leo Varadkar, backed up Joan Burton takes to his wheels on a new cycleway. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Sat, Jun 28, 2014, 01:00

Michael D’s garden party season is in full swing. He has held two of them already – the first, last Saturday, was for families and on Wednesday, he hosted “an ethics garden party” . Whatever that’s supposed to be.

We didn’t get an invite, so the ethical hat had to stay in the wardrobe along with our ethical sandals and ethical frock.

What do you do at “an ethics garden party?” Would an ethics barbecue be a sin?

According to newspaper reports, the attendance included representatives from community groups, charities, professional bodies, third-level institutions and the media.

From what we can make out, the President gave a short speech about ethics during the event. He is very enthusiastic about his Ethics Initiative, hence the garden party theme.

According to his website, the President wants his term in office to be a “Presidency of ideas – recognising, and open to, new paradigms of thought and action” and he is seeking to develop “a public discourse that places human flourishing and an ethic of active citizenship at its heart”.

To this end, Michael D has explored the importance and challenge of ethics in Irish life and Ireland’s relationships abroad. He has focused on the ethical connection between our society and economy.

On Wednesday, the President talked of the need to “examine the ethical implications of some of the assumptions that guide the hegemonic theories within the discipline of economics” and stuff like that.

And he wants to get ethics “out of the ivory tower and the pulpit and into the market square”.

“It was very thought-provoking,” a guest told us.

We hear it was a tough gig for the face-painter and that the balloon man left in a huff because he was accused of making unethical sausage dogs and there were reports of unethical behaviour in the bouncy castle, but all this may be untrue.

They didn’t get the best of weather for the “ethics garden party.” It was bucketing. So guests spent most of their time in the marquee, where the musical entertainment was provided by singer Róisín O and the band The Walls.

“It was a very convivial occasion,” says our guest. “The food was lovely; all organic and grown in the walled garden.”

Michael D will hold eight garden parties this year.

Today, the President and his wife, Sabina, welcome members of the Dáil and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Members of the Seanad got a late call-up to attend in recent days.

Future parties will see people involved in community work and members of voluntary groups visiting the Áras, while one has been pencilled in for musical societies.

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