Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

President defends criticism of EU

President Michael D Higgins denied overstepping the mark with outspoken criticism of the EU

President Michael D Higgins attacked the EU as part of his oath to do everything in his power for the welfare of Ireland, he has declared.

Amid government support for his outspoken remarks, the President insisted he was not overstepping any constitutional line.

"There is no difficulty at all as far as I am concerned about what I am doing in terms of it being both positive and being clearly within what I think is both proper and right and constitutional," he said.

He added: "I do think nobody would thank any of us for looking on a very serious situation in Europe, be it unemployment or poverty, or institutional inflexibility or whatever, and to not put our thruppence into the debate."

In an interview with the Financial Times on Thursday, the President attacked EU leaders for lumping banking debts on to taxpayers and he also criticised the European Central Bank (ECB).

Last month, he also hit out at EU leaders and austerity during a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. His remarks have been supported by a number of Cabinet ministers.

Speaking outside a human rights award ceremony in central Dublin, he said he was not deliberately seeking out issues to comment on other than what he felt to be necessary.

He said that on taking office his oath committed him to use all his abilities for the welfare of the people of Ireland. "Governments do what governments do, and I as President of Ireland do what my oath asks me to do," he said.

The President said he was very conscious of his role under the constitution, and insisted it was important for all intellectual and pluralist voices to be heard in times of crisis.

He said he also has meetings every six weeks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny about what is happening in Ireland and Europe, during which he passes on the views of people he meets around the country as part of his duties. The President said he is doing so in a positive way to try to add something to the debate.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk