The ‘attack’ that was made last week in Finglas on President Michael D Higgins and his limousine has been greeted with hostility on all sides, with the exception of the people who carried out the ‘attack’. (Why, by the way, when it happened last week, did it top the RTÉ News only last night?) Some have characterised it as an attack not just on the President but on the Constitution. Er, um: maybe stretching things a bit, that. Michael D doesn’t look at all like a Constitution.
In the amateur video we saw on the RTÉ News – and how the cops must curse the day smart phones were invented – the President’s car never at any stage looked in danger, much less its occupants. What we saw were gardaí shoving some women, some shouted remarks including “Parasite!” and other expressions of disapproval of the man in the limo.
Why were people so upset? It might be because Michael D has been a long-time Labour party bigwig, and to say that Labour have disappointed the Irish people in the south would be like saying the French people were a little upset when Marie Antoinette told them to eat cake. Or it could be because a number of working-class people saw the visit as rubbing salt in their already raw water-charges wounds.
Myself, I blame the limo. For some unfathomable reason, the President of Ireland (and most other heads of state) are chauffeured around in absurdly roomy and expensive motor cars. It’s as if they lost the power of their arms and legs the moment they were inaugurated. These are times of austerity and as the Head of State Michael D could have set a striking example of sharing the austerity pain by down-sizing to, say, a Toyota Avensis. Most of the people protesting at his visit would be dizzy with joy at the thought of driving a Toyota Avensis, let alone being driven around in one. But back last Thursday, you have this man being driven in luxuriant style, on a massive salary with a massive pension in waiting, and he and his limo swoosh into their lives and then we’re supposed to be upset that he didn’t get an enthusiastic reception from people who literally don’t know how they’re going to stretch this week’s budget to feed their families. Nothing sophisticated in the reaction of the protestors. Just ‘He’s got a massively comfy number, we’re taxed to the bone, and he wants us to clap and cheer?’
God between us and all harm, but if I’m ever attacked, I hope it’s half as injury-free an experience as Michael D’s was.