Martin McGuinness plans to take a new broom to ‘pacific’ Aras tradition…

Áras an Uachtaráin - residence of the Irish President, and soon to be home to Northern Irish beesI think this is well worth noting. Too many, it seems to me are presuming things about the Irish Presidency which rely on tradition (not least the one that says Fianna Fail’s guiding hand must be on all, but one, incumbent) but are not actually written into the Constitution.

Martin McGuinness takes the trouble to point out what some of his plans are, should he be lucky enough to win the race to the Aras:

“There have been some suggestions made by Government Ministers that the role of the President is to act as a spokesperson for the government, particularly in oversees engagements. This is not the role of the President. Those comments illustrate why we need a president who is independent of Government. Indeed they demonstrate a misunderstanding of the role of president.

“If elected as Uachtaran na hEireann my foremost concern will be to uphold the constitution – to be a people’s president by putting the people’s interest first. I will uphold the constitution, stand up for Ireland and stand up for Irish sovereignty.

“What the people of Ireland need is a president who will not respond to pressure from government to ignore his or her constitutional obligations – for example the dissolution of the Dáil or the reference of constitutionally questionable bills to the Supreme Court. I will be in the people’s corner – not the governments.

As for that great steal from the Constitution on needing the permission from Enda to go home to Derry by Newton… It would not be smart for any future President to breach that provision (with the purposes of embarrassing the government over the national question) without being held to have violated the Constitution it would be his burden to protect.

The larger prize is the privilege the Constitution confers upon the President to speak to the nation in over matters more pressing to those who actually live in the south in a manner calculated to substantially enhance his authority over the grave economic and political matters facing the Republic of Ireland.

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