TIME FOR A RETHINK OF PRESIDENCY.

Michael D. Higgins, an admirer of Castro and friend of Daniel Ortega, will most likely be returned to the Park with a thumping majority. He has failed to release the details of his expenses and explained away some of his extravagant travel and accommodation arrangements by blaming them on others. He has broken his pledge to the Irish people to only stand for one term.  I, and I suspect many others, voted for him in 2011 on that basis.  However let us not forget, with the exception of Sinn Fein, the major parties have endorsed his candidacy primarily driven by a desire to avoid a costly election when a general election looms.  That shows little respect for our constitution and, indeed, our democracy.  What the leaders of the main parties need to realise is that they have thus brought the Presidency itself into disrepute.  To be honest, I think it is time to have a conversation about how we elect a President.  The powers of the Presidency are severely limited although I do accept that thanks to Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese it has established itself as a centre of soft power.  In a very real sense it should embody the spirit of the nation, but the holder of the office should understand the role of the President and the limitations of the office.  I suspect that many people will come to the conclusion that Michael D. is probably a safe pair of hands but what will be interesting is the size of the vote that Peter Casey gets because whether you like him or not, he has no hesitation in expressing his opinions, no matter how provocative.  As a result he has probably improved the ratings of the debates.

Thinking about our Republic and our Head of State brings me straight to Saudi Arabia and the exercise of absolute power by the Saudi Monarchy.  I have for a considerable time regarded the reputation of the Crown Prince as a moderniser as a sham.  His prosecution of the war in Yemen is likely to bring about a humanitarian catastrophe on an epic scale.  Now there is increasing evidence that the Saudi Royals despatched a hit squad to Istanbul to kill the Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.  The Americans and the British in particular are having a great deal of difficulty wrapping their heads around the implications of this because of the deep economic ties with the Kingdom.  The US arms sales to the Saudis are enormous and the very threat of sanctions could destabilise the international oil market.

However, more than any other story in recent time, this encapsulates the sentiment that if you lie down with dogs you will get fleas.  The idea that this savage murder took place in a consulate makes it all the more repugnant.  There is no good outcome to all of this, save to give thanks we live in a Republic with a tweed-loving President.