The presidency – the case for an election

 

Sir, – You state in your editorial of September 27th that a presidential election in 2018 would be good for Irish democracy. I suggest that Irish democracy is in fact in robust health given the promise of a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, destined to consume the electorate for six months, several additional referendums on the horizon, plus the ever-present threat of a general election! The electorate is more likely to suffer from ballot fatigue rather than feel starved of electoral opportunity. We should grasp the chance to avoid another divisive presidential election, of late known for stroking the egos of erstwhile aspiring holders of the highest office in the land, who subsequently disappear completely from public life. – Yours, etc,

Dr JOHN FEENEY,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Your editorial on the election of the next President in 2018 highlights the dilemma that faces potential candidates for the presidency due to President Michael D Higgins’s delay in stating whether or not he wishes to put himself forward for a second term of office.

Potential candidates will have little or no time to organise an election campaign, rendering the process somewhat anti-democratic.

There is an easy solution. The Government should introduce a law demanding that a current president declares their position on re-election at least one year before their current presidential term expires. This would solve the current problem and ensure that candidates would be given reasonable time in the future. – Yours, etc,

MARY MORRISSEY,

Castletownbere, Co Cork.

Sir, – Your leader “The case for an election” suggests that a president who is elected unopposed for a second term somehow lacks authority. With respect, I think that is nonsense.

I would accept that the presidents – Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh and Patrick Hillery – who had never been elected by popular mandate did lack authority. That was bad for the office of the president. Ó Dálaigh was disrespected by the government of the day, and attempts were made to bully Hillery – efforts which were thankfully resisted by him.

The presidents who were returned unopposed for a second term – Seán T O’Kelly and Mary McAleese – did not, however, lack authority in their second terms. Their original mandates were sufficient, and their unopposed re-election arguably enhanced their authority by demonstrating that their discharge of the duties of the presidency had earned them the confidence of the political establishment.

In contrast, the fact that de Valera’s second term was opposed arguably weakened his authority during his second term – since his re-election had been by the narrowest of margins, and the fact that his second term was contested had brought him back into the party political arena, where no president belongs.

If President Michael D Higgins decides that he wants a second term, then I hope he will be returned unopposed. At a time when the reputation of the political establishment in Ireland – and indeed that of every other part of the Irish establishment (business, ecclesiastical, etc) – is at an all-time low, he is a beacon of light in our country. His authority as president in a second term would only be compromised by an electoral contest which, given the proclivities of some elements within our political establishment, would very likely be a grubby one. – Yours, etc,

FELIX M LARKIN,

Cabinteely,

Dublin 18.