Fianna Fail would make `very difficult' coalition partners for the Labour party

 

Michael D. Higgins says he would be glad to serve in government again but believes it would be "very difficult" to serve with Fianna Fail. "It doesn't mean we are automatically available to anyone else," he warns. "Unless our policy agenda can be our starting point, we may be better served in opposition again."

While in government as the first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, he set up a new Department and transformed a neglected sector, while also suspending section 31 of the Broadcasting Act - a move which helped the Northern peace process. An accomplished poet and author, he is also responsible for establishing a thriving film industry and initiating the new Irish language television station.

On the subject of his ministry - one which had its title changed by his successor - he is also concerned about the lack of discussion on changes in the information society.

"Again, you have the strident voices. The whole point is that unless you are a fully confident, brash, demanding loud person, shouting in the new market place, you really shouldn't be there. You should fade away. You don't belong.

"If you have children, you should prepare them for this new environment and educate them in an appropriate way and if you are an older person you should try and go quietly. That's the attitude.

"I subscribe to a total alternative. I believe as a citizen you have rights and obligations to society. There is a need for enhanced public space, parks, squares, streets - that you have the right to be there because you are alive, not because of your purchasing power.

"And I think it is a crippling blow if market principles are allowed to work through society like that. It is not progressive, it is barbaric. And eventually what will happen when the storm troopers of globalisation have consumed so publicly, they will force a confrontation between those who have been excluded and those who do not. That is what we have to try and avoid."

After nearly 30 years in politics, he says the only thing that will keep him going is "to have made the case that it need not be like this and it can be different, and to have made this case over and over again, decade after decade after decade".

Even if this is all he has to show for his service in the Dail, he says, "that's a lot better than a kind of acquiescence with a system that is patriarchal, exclusive and is now going through perhaps one of its worst periods of virulent greed".