President insists he enjoys good relationship with Government

Michael D Higgins dismisses suggestions of conflict after comments on economic crisis

President Michael D Higgins has insisted he enjoys a good working relationship with the Government. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

President Michael D Higgins has insisted he enjoys a good working relationship with the Government. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Sun, May 5, 2013, 13:33

President Michael D Higgins has dismissed any suggestion of conflict between himself and the Government over an interview he gave last week in which he called for “ a radical rethink” of how European Union leaders are handling the economic crisis.

In the interview with the Financial Times, Mr Higgins said the European Union faced a moral crisis as much as an economic crisis and European leaders needed to make up their minds on the type of union they really wanted.

“There is a real problem in what was assumed to be a single hegemonic model. The unemployment profile in Greece is different from the unemployment profile in Ireland. You need a pluralism of approaches,” he said.

Mr Higgins’s comments were welcomed and supported by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore but some commentators have criticised the President for straying beyond his powers in commenting on political matters.

Emeritus Professor of Law at UCC, David Gwynn Morgan said he believed President Higgins may well have overstepped the boundary and trespassed in terms of making public comment on politics and economics.

Asked by The Irish Times if he had consulted with the Government before doing the FT interview, Mr Higgins explained that that was not how the presidency worked as he revealed he enjoyed a good relationship with the Government.

“The way it works is this - I have a very good working relationship under Article 28 of the Constitution which says the President shall be kept informed of matters internationally and domestic.

“The Taoiseach visits me every six weeks and we have meetings that are never less than than two or two and half hours. He tells me how things are going in Europe and the world and how things are going in relation to the legislative programme.

“And I, because I am around the country, I offer my views to him - this is a two way process and I can say to you that it works because it is a very positive relationship that I have and that’s how it works,” Mr Higgins said.

“I have seen since I gave my interview to the Financial Times and since I gave my speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, all sorts of versions of what people think might be the relationship between Governmetn and the Presidency.

“I can tell you we are independent offices and that independence is respected- I respect the role of government and since my inauguration, the government has been entirely respectful and helpful of my independent role.”

Mr Higgins was speaking at Carrignavar in Co Cork where he unveiled a monument to mark the great tradition of bardic Irish poetry in the area dating back to the 1600s and revived in the early years of the20th century by the Gaelic League.

He later attended a ceremony at Cork City Library to mark its historic exhibition entitled The Crucial 100 - one hundred books which inspired a revolution” celebrating the growth of cultural nationalism in the early years of the 20th century.