PRESIDENT MUST REMAIN NEUTRAL
Returning home from a short stay in hospital I do so appreciate the intensity of the bird song. A walk to my favourite copper beech tree fastened my re-engagement with nature. This time, Thank God , my wife was allowed an occasional visit, removing that awful feeling of isolation. However, as always, the nursing staff in St. James’s were kind and sympathetic.
So our President has been stretching the constraints of his office. Ever since Mary Robinson held and let go of the Presidency, the nature of the position has been evolving. Michael D is a politician but he is also well aware of the important role he might be asked to play, most specifically in his ability to refuse a dissolution of the Dail. As such it is important, if not critical, that he is seen to be neutral . Any perception that he could be biased is theoretically damaging to the office. Michael D is a popular President and he perhaps judged that he could therefore get away with criticising the government’s housing policy. However, that is not his role and I think the Taoiseach would be well within his rights to quietly remind His Excellency of his responsibilities. Michael D echoed many people’s feelings when he spoke out but that was not the duty he was elected to perform. He knew what he was buying into and if the Presidency has a useful role it should be seen to be above politics. He is, after all, very well paid for his services.
One matter is getting me down and that is the state of Anglo-Irish relations. I think it is important to keep matters in perspective. First and foremost in my mind as far as the UK is concerned is the vital leadership it has provided in assisting the Ukrainian war effort. This has been openly acknowledged and identified by President Zelensky. In fact without assistance from the US and the UK the Ukrainians would be finding it extremely difficult to withstand the naked and malign aggression of Vlad the Bad. Boris Johnson may be seen as an unworthy and unreliable figure as far as Anglo-Irish relations are concerned but his war leadership has proven to be exemplary. In Ukraine they are naming streets after him. That is not the case when it comes to Northern Ireland. From the beginning Boris Johnson didn’t think the implications of the Brexit deal through. As far as the North was concerned, it wasn’t “oven-ready”. However, I genuinely believe that the North’s unique position as a participant in both the EU Internal Market as well as the UK Home Market is not properly appreciated. Yes, there are difficulties with the operation of the Protocol. However, even with the UK’s proposal for a green channel for goods from the UK, there is not a great deal of difference to a proposal coming from the Commission. What, of course, is extremely unhelpful is the UK’s seeking to arbitrarily introduce legislation to alter the Protocol, and suddenly you have those of a nervous disposition talking about a Trade War. That would be in nobody’s interest. In any event, this legislation if it even gets through the Commons in its present form, will be well diluted in the Lords. Much of this heat comes from Tory leadership wrangling. In the meantime, all parties need to tone down the rhetoric.