Jennifer O’Connell: Michael D Higgins would do well to follow his own advice

President’s refusal of invitation to commemorative service with queen is no act of healing

Michael D Higgins’s popularity means he sometimes gets away with pushing the boundaries of the presidency. Photograph: Maxwells/PA Wire

Michael D Higgins’s popularity means he sometimes gets away with pushing the boundaries of the presidency. Photograph: Maxwells/PA Wire

During the fateful RTÉ Frontline presidential debate near the end of the 2011 election campaign, one candidate – who had more or less been written off in the polls – spoke about what he would like his legacy to be. A decade on, I doubt many people remember Michael D Higgins’s answer that night; his words about bringing the generations together or his desire to “restore and help and heal” the country.

It was the kind of thing all the hopefuls were saying, although certainly less lyrically. Few people were paying much attention to Mr Higgins that night, at least not after Pat Kenny read out a tweet from a bogus Sinn Féin account that would derail then favourite Seán Gallagher’s campaign.

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