The President and the Defence Forces
Sir, – I disagree with Dr David Kenny’s opinion that President Michael D Higgins, speaking on pay and conditions in the Defence Forces, may have crossed a line “in commenting on a live and ongoing pay dispute” (Opinion & Analysis, September 18th). That’s just the point. There is no ongoing pay dispute, nor should there ever be one. Members of the Defence Forces may never have the option of withdrawing their service.
Given that, there is an onus on Government to do right by those who give faithful and vital service. Government has spectacularly failed to do right by our Defence Forces. An organisation essential to the safety of Ireland has been dangerously neglected and run down. In these circumstances, the head of state’s moderate remarks are wholly appropriate. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I urge the Government to take a more critical view of the increasing political pronouncements of our president. Article 13.7 of our Constitution – which defines the role of the president’s office – is limited, but traditionally governments have interpreted it as meaning that a president should never use the office to pontificate on political issues without prior approval.
The Government may feel that the “left-of-centre” posturing of President Higgins is harmless, but their stance is creating a precedent, which may be exploited by a future incumbent in his or her last term of office. Their view of what is politically desirable may be radically different from those of the current president, and if the Government continues to look the other way, it could be very difficult to restrain his or her political pronouncements. We don’t have to look very far for examples which, if replicated in this jurisdiction, would make us ashamed of being Irish. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – If letter writers (September 19th) are correct in criticising David Kenny for his article on the propriety of a president speaking on political issues, should future campaigns for president involve candidates answering questions on political issues so that we, the public, know their views on these matters? Do I now have to take a presidential candidate’s political views into account when voting for them even if I think he or she would otherwise be a good president? Will the media now have to take a stronger role in challenging the president if he or she is going to make political statements? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Our system of government is one of separation of powers, where each branch of government performs its constitutional functions, and none should interfere with how the others perform theirs. Deciding how public funds should be raised, allocated and spent is not part of the president’s function. – Yours, etc,