Letter to Sunday Independent, September 25th 2011


PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN


In your editorial of September 25th (Heading for a dirty campaign) you quote Justice and Defence Minister Alan Shatter as saying Martin McGuinness was not an appropriate person to hold the office of President on the basis that he declined an invitation to attend the official dinner at Dublin Castle for Queen Elizabeth II during her visit last May. Perhaps Mr Shatter might express a view on whether the Fine Gael candidate for the presidency, Gay Mitchell, is also an inappropriate person to hold the office.

I refer to Gay Mitchell's comments of August 20th 2006 at the annual Michael Collins/Arthur Griffith commemoration in Glasnevin cemetery when Mr Mitchell suggested that the Irish Government should consider a role for the British monarch in a new all-Ireland state, perhaps even a role as joint head of state to accommodate those Irish who also see themselves as British and have a strong attachment to the crown? I find it both bizarre and repugnant that an Irish presidential candidate would put forward a suggestion that the British monarch, who is also Commander-in Chief of British armed forces, could be considered as a joint Irish head of state.

This proposal is probably the first time that any Dublin politician has openly challenged the continued existence of the Republic of Ireland state separate from Britain. The very fact that this suggestion was openly canvassed by a leading establishment political figure and front runner for Áras an Uachtaráin is a worrying development.

This suggestion by Gay Mitchell must be clarified by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. I regard Ireland's sovereignty as sacrosanct, probably because we had such a long and hard battle to secure it, and because we were a colony for so long we take the exercise of our political power seriously and value it very highly. Irish separation from the embrace of the British polity and the existence of a Republic are non-negotiable basic principles. Ironically, it was a Fine Gael Taoiseach, John A Costello who, in 1949, ended the last formal British link over most of Ireland. It is imperative that we ensure that some in modern Fine Gael don't try to undo that achievement.

Your editorial also said that any undiscovered skeletons lurking in cupboards will be subject to merciless scrutiny. It remains to be seen, and read, if the public probing and holding to account by the media of Senator Norris and Martin McGuinness will be applied in equal measure to Mr Mitchell and the other candidates.

 

Tom Cooper

(Cathaoirleach - INC)