President gives ‘neither a yes nor a no’ to another term

In San Francisco speech, Higgins praises community’s response to Berkeley families

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, now 74 years old, is more than half way through his seven-year term, which began in November 2011. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, now 74 years old, is more than half way through his seven-year term, which began in November 2011. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

President Michael D Higgins has not ruled out running for a second term in office.

Speaking in San Francisco, California on Sunday, the President said he was saying “neither a yes nor a no” to the question of whether he will go forward again. He described the query as “premature”.

“In the fullness of time, when it’s appropriate, I’ll address that issue,” he said.

He also said he “got a very clear mandate” and was “very happy with the way that is working out”.

The President, now 74 years old, is more than half way through his seven-year term, which began in November 2011.

Though he had said at the time he would serve for only one term, there have been suggestions he may change his mind. There has also been encouragement from former colleagues in the Labour Party, including former leader of the party, Eamon Gilmore.

Mr Higgins made his comments in advance of attending a garden party at Filoli House, Silicon Valley, 30 miles south of San Francisco, with his wife Sabina Higgins. The event was hosted by Consul General of Ireland, Philip Grant and attended by Irish ambassador to the US, Anne Anderson. It is part of an eight-day official visit to the US west coast.

Addressing a crowd of more than 500 invited guests, Mr Higgins thanked those present who had helped during the Berkeley tragedy last June, in which six students died and seven were injured when an apartment balcony they were standing on collapsed.

The President said the Irish community responded “in milliseconds” to help the families. He said he was looking forward to having the opportunity to thank first responders, and those involved in the healthcare area on Wednesday, as well as those who were involved with “simply sitting alongside families”.

“I know there are some of you here tonight who contributed to the incredible mobilisation of support that took place right across the Irish community. No one will ever forget that,” he said.

The President also told those gathered that Ireland had the largest number of people who go to university and the largest number who move on from university to post-graduate study.

“Put another way, we are intellectually subsidising the rest of the world,” he said, to cheers and clapping from guests.

“Because I’m president and no longer deal with matters of government, I’m not going into what I think would be the innovative tax implications of that.”

Introducing the President, Mr Grant said it was fitting that he be welcomed to Filoli.

“This beautiful, historic, 100-year-old hall, which has graciously opened its doors, speaks of the inspiration which Ireland and America, and California in particular, derive from each other,” he said.

Filoli, on 654 acres, was built by William Bowers Bourn and his wife Agnes Moody Bourn in 1915.

It was inspired by Muckross House in Killarney, Co Kerry, which the couple bought for their daughter and son-in-law in 1910. The property is now in the care of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The many items of Irish origin at the property include portraits of the Bourns, painted in 1916, by Irish artist William Orpen.