As the presidential campaign grew dirtier, it was inevitable that, sooner or later, somebody would raise the poetry issue. No surprise that the somebody was Gay Mitchell. The Fine Gael man is politically descended from a long line of philistines, including Kevin O’Higgins, who established an early precedent for this kind of thing when dismissing as “mostly poetry” the programme of the First Dáil.
But it’s interesting to note a certain defensiveness in the response of Michael D Higgins (no relation to Kevin), the clear target of Mitchell’s warning that voters should not elect a president “to sip champagne and recite poetry”. Most poets would have homed in on the second half of the implied insult. Whereas the Labour man focused on the first, riposting that “for a start”, he had “never liked champagne”.
Perhaps he was acting on legal advice to be circumspect about his past. It’s public knowledge that he was for many years a prominent member of what Patrick Kavanagh called the “standing army” of Irish poets: a body whose numbers, Kavanagh estimated, never fell below 20,000. We also know that Higgins didn’t leave the army in 1974, if ever. But now that the issue has been broached, it’s incumbent upon him to state whether he’s still involved and, if so, in what capacity.
Heh. Read the whole thing.