Stage set for Michael D’s run for the Park

Neil Halligan

Reporter:

Neil Halligan

Labour party Presidential candidate Michael D Higgins was in jovial form during his visit to Longford on Friday last, even before the most recent polls were released.

Labour party Presidential candidate Michael D Higgins was in jovial form during his visit to Longford on Friday last, even before the most recent polls were released.

Two opinion polls at the weekend put the Galway native as the clear front runner to succeed Mary McAleese as President of Ireland.

While clearly enjoying the campaign, the real reason behind his good form was a visit to Backstage Theatre, a venue that he says he approved funding for during his term as Minister for Arts.

“I have been really impressed with it (Backstage),” he enthused. “Spaces like this make touring possible. It means that good productions come out of the city,” he added.

Despite providing the funding, Michael revealed that he agreed to allow the Taoiseach of the day, Albert Reynolds, to perform the official opening duties back in 1995.

“He (Albert) was very positive and supportive when I needed to move very quickly in the film area.

“Albert had a good business sense and he saw what we were at; I explained that we were just about to win an Oscar with ‘My Left Foot’ and we were getting international attention and I was getting ready to put in a bid for Braveheart.”

Much of his interview with the Leader was spent talking about the arts and the positive role it has to play in Ireland today.

He believes that there are a lot of untapped resources in the arts industry, including film commissions and developing the music industry.

Talking about the campaign to date, Mr Higgins described the way candidates are selected for presidential elections as “ridiculous” said the presidency should be discussed in the upcoming constitutional forum, to include looking at the functions of the president.

He pointed out that despite the downturn, people are keen to focus on the positives.

“I found it when I went the National Ploughing Championships, there has been a re-embracing of the real economy,” said Mr Higgins.

Describing himself as “an ideas man”, Michael said he would bring that creative thinking to the role of president.

“I would hope to take up an idea that I got from the Erskine Childers campaign, which is that you’d run a set of seminars on topics that are beyond the day-to-day business, such as ‘being young in Ireland’, Ireland and economics, and so on.

“There is a mood now on wanting to get to a different place than we have been for the past two decades.

“The public recognise the strutting and the hubris that went on and how we lost friends in Europe and the world because of the near-arrogance that was appearing.”