After seven years of presidency, he’s still our Michael D

It comes as little surprise that Michael D Higgins has declared his intention to contest the presidency of Ireland for a second term - some 52 years since the incumbent Eamon de Valera won a second term before leaving leaving office at 90 years of age.

In the previous six and a half years, President Higgins has remained the same Michael D whom the country has respected since he made a name for himself as a Labour Party politician in Galway. And while politics has helped pave the way to the presidency, there is so much more to the diminutive president who many now regard as an Irish icon.

Michael D is known as a man of many talents - a lover of sport, a politician and poet, a cultured social campaigner, historian and educator - ensuring he has delivered his presidency with a dignified knowledge, compassion, and humour, supported by his wife Sabina.

Once something of a firebrand politician - epitomised in an interview with American journalist Michael Graham on the George Hook show - Michael D is now the elder statesmen, and like most people, he has mellowed with age.

Of course there will be those who believe someone younger should run, and that Michael D has performed a volte face on being a single-term president - issues which will be addressed in the coming weeks as prospective candidates announce themselves and endeavour to get sufficient support from Oireachtas members, local authorities, or Sinn Fein, whose leader Mary Lou McDonald has indicated the party may run a candidate.

Whatever that outcome Michael D has added a new dimension to the Aras, one which many believe has been hugely successful, and has received the backing of Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, who says: “If a person is doing a good job, I find no compelling reason as a leader of a political party why we should oppose him – rather we should support him and endorse him.”

As for the age factor, President Higgins may not be a man who ‘whips up fear’, but he is certainly one who has earned respect and acts respectfully. In the world in which we live, he is indeed a fine advert for the elderly - remarkably energetic, in touch with youth, and packed wit enthusiasm. And as someone remarked: “He’ll hardly need to run a sub four-minute mile in the Aras.”

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