Banotti's manifesto sets out her plans for Presidency

 

Mary Banotti's manifesto outlines seven characteristics she believes Ireland should have in the year 2004, when the next presidential term of office is over. As President she "would seek to lead the nation by word and example" in developing these characteristics.

The State should recognise publicly its citizens' achievements. To this end, as President, Ms Banotti would, with the co-operation of the Government, work to establish "a meaningful and highly regarded system of national awards to mark conspicuous service and the attainment of excellence in various areas of our national life".

The state's prosperity should be shared by all its citizens. The State should draw on "its collective memory of poverty and hardship to avoid the excesses of greed and inequality that often go hand in hand with economic well-being".

"Ireland in the year 2004 can be a country where all the citizens of the nation are accorded their full rights as free and equal citizens." Ireland must ensure that poverty and gross inequality were not accepted or acceptable; people with disabilities were accorded their rights as full and equal citizens; differences of race and religion were welcomed; and gender-based discrimination was "nothing but an unpleasant memory".

"Ireland in the year 2004 can be a confident and increasingly integrated member of the European Union. . .Mary Banotti's experience in Europe makes her the best guide and adviser the people of Ireland can have in this process."

The environment must be protected. "The President can take a lead in promoting ever greater awareness among people of the importance of managing waste, recycling and being responsible for the protection of the environment."

"Ireland in 2004 can be a country which cherishes and protects the health of its citizens." The President can play a significant role in promoting awareness of the need for healthier lives and lifestyles.

Ireland must develop closer relationships with "all those parts of the UK with which both severally and collectively our history is so closely intertwined . . . Only Mary Banotti has the tradition, experience and understanding of these realities and the ability to interpret them for the Irish people."

The power of the Presidency largely resides in its symbolism, according to Ms Banotti's manifesto. It could "reach out and appeal to our better selves, to that part of us that has so enriched civil society, that network of voluntary organisations and institutions - sporting, cultural, charitable, social - which exist outside the formal structure of politics and which are so important to our quality of life".

But the office should not be regarded as purely symbolic, the manifesto goes on. The powers of the office were significant and could be extended by the Oireachtas. Some powers were purely at the President's discretion. "For example, the President has absolute discretion whether or not to grant a dissolution of Dail Eireann when requested by the Taoiseach when he/she has ceased to retain the support of the majority in the Dail."

Dealing with such complex constitutional issues was not just a question of being aware of the legal or constitutional code. "Having experience of the practical application of the provisions of the Constitution is vital. Above all the President must be a person who has not just a knowledge of the Constitution but someone whose judgment on important matters of State can be relied upon by the people of Ireland. "Mary Banotti is just such a person. She has the necessary experience of public life, which would enable her to maintain the integrity of the office, free from conflicts and controversy, enabling it to continue as the fulcrum of so much that is best in the country."