“If elected president, does Mr Higgins plan to expand the review section?”

In his Irish Times’ Irishman’s Diary Frank McNally pre-empted John’s complaint with some questions about Irish Presidential candidate Michael D Higgins’ dubious past.  From the Irish Times

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.

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  • Well, at least Michael D isn’t one of those dangerous poets who write with other men’s blood, instead of ink.

  • HeinzGuderian

    I have a feeling if I had written the above,(which I fully agree with),the card happy ref would have me off again !! 😉

  • “Professor” Higgins advice to the other candidates might be: “You are to stay here for the next sixteen days learning to speak beautifully, like a lady in a florist’s shop. If you work hard and do as you’re told, one of you shall sleep in a proper bedroom, have lots to eat, and money to buy chocolates and go for rides in jaunting cars.” 🙂

  • HG, McNally cheekily calls Kevin O’Higgins a philistine whereas there’s something poetic about this from 1922: “I have not abandoned any political aspirations to which I have given expression in the past, but in the existing circumstances I advise the people to trust to evolution rather than revolution for their attainment.” I hope the philistines out there will see the poetry in my post – and overlook any grammatical errors 😉

  • HeinzGuderian

    Indeed !! 😉

  • John Ó Néill

    There is one quote missing from the above – Pablo Neruda (on having his house search by soldiers) declared: “There is only one thing of danger to you here: poetry.”

    [ps – the system doesn’t seem to be retaining all submitted comments]

  • Rory Carr

    Baudelaire was of the opinion that, “There exist only three beings worthy of respect: the priest, the soldier, the poet. To know, to kill, to create. Despite Gay Mitchell’s having the visage of a priesteen , that leaves only two out of three in this race.

    However H.L. Mencken reckoned that, “A poet more than thirty years old is simply an overgrown child.”

    In a spirit of reconciliation perhaps I should mention that the Laotian Chargé d’Affairs in London once confided to me that in the Laotian revolutionary army, the Pathet Lao, a soldier could not rise to the rank of commander unless he was also a poet.

    Lovely country. Lovely people. And one of the very best little revolutions ever in the most bombed country ever (an average of one B-52 bombload every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973. US bombers dropped more ordnance on Laos in this period than was dropped during the whole of the Second World War.)

    If either McGuinness or Higgins want to emulate the Laotians in this respect it might be easier for McGuinness to take up the pen, I can’t really see Higgins with a Tommy-gun.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Is nobody talking about Martin McGuinness’ attempts at poetry (is it because he denies ever being a member of Kavangh’s army?)

  • Mick Fealty

    HG, you and I need to talk! Can you email editor@…