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Higgins is collateral damage in unionist battle to be top dog

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If there is anything to be salvaged from the crisis manufactured around Irish President Michael D Higgins’ refusal to attend an event to commemorate partition, it is that it sparked conversation about what these historical events mean to different people.

Until now it has been easy to paint the President as a diminutive figurehead, hired to smile, pet his dog and appear generally affable in a favourite uncle sort of way.

But Mr Higgins is an elected representative who upholds the constitution and can only act with the binding advice of the government of the day.

Unlike the British monarch, who must behave in a politically neutral way, Mr Higgins was a political figure both before and after his election as President. Appointed in 1973 to the Seanad, he was first elected to the Dail in 1981 as a Labour Party TD.

In the last week his credentials as a person willing to reach out and perform acts of reconciliation have been questioned. True reconciliation does not require neutrality, but understanding of each other’s differences.

Rather than create a false narrative around that, I am more interested in discussing the reasons why he felt this way.

The Queen as a sovereign monarch has no such freedom to express what she really thinks about........

© Belfast Telegraph

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