President of Ireland and northern vote


Sir, – As part of his explanation for his non-attendance at a service to mark the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland, it seems to me that President Michael D Higgins is refusing to attend partly on the basis that he is President of Ireland rather than of the Republic of Ireland, and as such his attendance might be seen to endorse the division of this island.

Whilst he may be wise to do so, is his reasoning correct?

It is not yet possible, without a referendum, for citizens of Northern Ireland to vote in a presidential election here.

On that basis, Mr Higgins does not in fact have a legitimate mandate from the people of the island of Ireland as a whole and therefore is president only of the Republic, irrespective of his official title.

It could be argued that the 1.2 million electorate of Northern Ireland might well have swung the vote towards a different candidate in 2012.

Whilst his decision to absent himself from the commemoration in Armagh may be correct, without a democratic mandate he is not the president of all of Ireland any more than Jeffrey Donaldson is, regardless of his misapprehension.

Either we have a referendum to grant voting rights to our northern neighbours, or we should change the presidential title to reflect democratic realities. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – President Michael D Higgins was quite right to refuse to go to Armagh. Partition is not something to be celebrated or even commemorated except in sorrow.

He is not, however, “President of Ireland”. If Ireland is ever to be re-unified it will be on the basis of mutual respect; you do not respect your neighbour’s country by pretending that it does not exist.

– Yours, etc,


Glasgow, Scotland.