Everyone’s talking about how Michael D Higgins turned down that invitation to a church service ‘marking’ the creation of the border. Nobody that I’ve come across has been concerned to find the answer to a vital question: Why?
Why did Michael D say thanks but no thanks to the invite? It’s totally out of character with him; as he pointed out himself, he’s had several meetings with “Her Majesty” and attended more obviously political occasions.
He has offered reasons of a sort. He’s spoken of this having become a political event. Well of course it’s political, Michael D. You don’t ‘mark’ the occasion of partition without being political. Even it had only been the top Church guns there, it’d still have been political. Doesn’t wash, Michael D.
He then tossed in a complaint about the way he was addressed as ‘The President of the Republic of Ireland’ and not ‘The President of Ireland’. He knew, he must have known that the invitation addressed him correctly; it was the regressive DUP that made the ‘President of the Republic of Ireland’ remark. Looks like a deliberate and misleading distraction. Beyond that, there was no explanation, and Michael D made it patently clear the matter was closed. Which it wasn’t.
Here’s my guess. Cui bono – who benefits? Who might conceivably benefit from this sudden backbone/cojones-growth by the President? Well, ask yourself who else came out and said they agreed with his decision? The former leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin, that’s who. And over 80% of people agreed with him and the President.
Could it be that this was an attempt to give his former party, Labour, a boost, inheriting the mantle of James Connolly who declared partition would be a disaster for both north and south? Could Michael D have detected the wind of change that is blowing ever stronger across our island, reminding us that Ireland is all of Ireland, not the truncated twenty-six counties? Michael D may be President, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t got well-adjusted political instincts.
So my motivation vote is for Michael D getting in tune with public opinion, adopting a slightly less malleable stance on the border and maybe offering his old Labour chums a badly-needed hand at the same time.
Until I hear a better explanation, I’m sticking with this one.