Eastwood: Michael D Higgins A President For Us All

The SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood writes for us about why he’s backing Michael D. Higgins for a second term as President of Ireland

As we enter into the final week of the presidential campaign, I wish to fully reaffirm my own and the SDLP’s support for the re-election of President Michael D Higgins.

As a party, we have been privileged to know and to work with Michael D Higgins over the course of some 40 years. Throughout that period he was a constant and valued voice in the North. In aligning with the politics of John Hume, he was unbowed in the belief that non-violence offered the best and the bravest path towards true change in Ireland. Throughout his presidency, he has carried with him that knowledge and that affection for the northern part of this island.

As a party it was always our intention to support his re-election and having attended a recent speech delivered by our President, that conviction has grown all the stronger.

I would invite anyone who hasn’t made up their minds on this presidential election to read the civil rights lecture he delivered in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights March which was beaten off the streets of Derry.

The President spoke for nearly 45 minutes and not alone captured those defining and tragic moments 50 years ago which would lead to the onset of our Troubles, he was equally able to produce a narrative and an analysis of the wider historical tributaries which have shaped our political landscape for the last century.

For everyone in attendance at Derry’s Guildhall that day, the sheer scale and scope of the lecture provided a perfect crystalation of just how fortunate we are to have him as our President.

At a time of such instability and consequence on this island, when the ‘totality of relationships’ between Britain and Ireland are set to be reordered and renewed, those qualities of intellectual depth, insight and experience possessed by our President remain invaluable.

When far too much of our political discourse has been reduced to the level of simplistic, reactionary and visceral soundbite, President Higgins has in contrast elevated our expectation of the language and the depth of thought properly required for the duty of high office.

Throughout the years, Ireland has been blessed in our Presidents. They have served and enriched our national life. At critical moments, when our people have longed for a collective sense of belonging, they have spoken to us and they have spoken for us.

President Michael D Higgins has been true to that tradition. He has been true to the common values and the common good which still forms the essence of this country. We need him to remain as a President for us all.