The presidential election is less than a month away and at least for now, it looks like President Michael D. Higgins is set to serve another term.
Higgins has a 67 per cent lead, according to the Irish Mirror. In comparison, his closet competitors, Seán Gallagher and Gavin Duffy, only have 15 per cent each. But is it time for a new face?
Irish life expectancy is 81.5 years and Higgins is 77 years old. It may be morbid, but it’s certainly not out of the question that Higgins could die, or at the very least become sick enough that he’s unable to perform his presidential duties. Continuing with this morbid thought, if Higgins did die while he was still president, there would have to be another election. This would of course cost the state (and thus, the people) more money. However, whoever wins the presidential election will get a state pension (assuming they don’t die in office).
Since Higgins has already been president, he’s going to get a state pension whether or not he’s voted in for a second time. Therefore, voting in someone new could potentially cost tax payers more in the long run as it adds another person to the list of people receiving state pensions. Most people probably won’t be voting based on how much money it would save the state though, so perhaps that’s all irrelevant.
As the president of Ireland is largely a ceremonial role, people care about what the president represents and stands for more than how much money they’ll save in the long-term. Essentially, it appears to me that what most people want is a decent, honourable person. And, at least in my college bubble, most people also agree that Higgins embodies these traits. The love so many young people share for Higgins is kind of incredible. As I have mentioned before, this is a 77-year-old man we’re talking about. Clearly this illustrates that Higgins can still connect with the everyday working person, which is commendable. Because that is certainly not something that can be said for some of his competitors. Three of them, Peter Casey, Seán Gallagher and Gavin Duffy, are probably most well known for being rich investors on Dragon’s Den. Understanding the struggles of everyday people can be difficult when you’re so wealthy. Of course that’s not to say it’s impossible. After all, former TV star Donald Trump is now president of the United States, but I’d like to believe that Ireland can do better than voting in a reality TV star.
Joan Freeman, founder of Pieta House, is also in the running. It’s probably safe to say that working in a charity certainly grounds you a little bit more than doing business deals on TV. However, Freeman’s anti-abortion views are in stark contrast with the 87.6 per cent of young people who voted to repeal the eighth amendment. Finally, there’s Sinn Féin’s Liadh Ní Riada, who probably won’t win considering she’s only polling at seven percent.
There’s always the possibility Ireland could benefit from a fresh face, but why fix something that isn’t broken?
Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque
Image Credit: Wikipedia