Five years ago, Liberties Press published Causes for Concern: Irish politics, culture and society, a sometimes eclectic mix of Michael D.s journalism, academic writing and speeches over the years. The book is a testament to the range and breadth of Michael D.’s accomplishments as a politician, a public intellectual and, above all, as a great humanist. Unusually amongst public figures, Michael D. is at home in a range of communication modes from the rhetorical flourishes of the university lecturer, to the incisive observations of the detached columnist to the creative exegesis of the poet. As a political representative, opposition spokesman and Minister he could be relied upon to bring an intellectual acuity and vision to every brief in hand. Reading through the contributions in the book which extend over several decades of public life a few key themes emerge: respect for education and love of learning, the importance of promoting culture and the public sphere and the need to show solidarity with the oppressed.
In developing his world view, Michael D. has drawn on a rich seam of intellectual thinking but he returns repeatedly to the question of authenticity, and the goal of living an authentic life. Michael D.’s analysis of the ills of Irish society- clientelism, consumerism, materialism and technocratic determinism- are trenchant and prescient. He was a critic of the direction of socio-economic change in Ireland when it was neither popular nor profitable to be so. The kind of values that he has been espousing for decades- solidarity, community, democracy, justice, freedom and equality- are exactly the values to which we have now turned as we seek to rebuild our economy and society in the wake of the Celtic Tiger.
As Declan Kiberd so eloquently points out in the introduction to Michael D.’s book “In an age when the great ideological battles between capital and labour have been pronounced to be over, Higgins has kept ideas at the centre of political life; in a time of technocracy, he offers vision; and while others run for office on the basis of competence, he insists on an ethical perspective.”
Michael D. has spent a lifetime putting his considerable intellectual gifts to work in the service of the Irish people. He has used his voice courageously to speak out for those in Irish society and elsewhere who have been oppressed. He will indeed be a President of whom we can all be immensely proud.
Mary Corcoran and Alex White