herald

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Plenty of hot air from Michael D's visit

"DESPITE his small stature, President Michael D Higgins has strode like a colossus across the worlds of royalty, politics and celebrity."

So wrote a newspaper yesterday, adding more hyperbole to An tUachtarain's official visit last week to Britain, variously described as "ground-breaking", "historic" and "a triumph".

Is it just me, or was his trip just another expensive quasi-political junket? Except that while our politicians usually get some tangible benefit for their escapades, Michael D's did not.

Sure, he met the Queen (left), but it's three years since she made her own "historic" visit to Ireland. At the time it was described as heralding a new dawn for Anglo-Irish relations, so the suggestion that Michael D's visit has done the same seems to be over-egging its importance somewhat.

Strangely enough, amid all the fawning that accompanied the visit of a figure whose job is purely ceremonial and whose office costs more than €10m a year to run, the most pertinent comment about his trip came from a British journalist, Quentin Letts.

MEANINGLESS

Writing in the Daily Mail, he perfectly captured the pleasant but meaningless quality of the visit, describing Michael D's speech to the Houses of Parliament thus: "He spoke charmingly, with just enough blarney, his cadences those of a blustery day on Ballybunion beach."

And to its Irish counterpart's excitement at the fact our president has met Al Pacino, Martin Sheen and Glenn Close, one can only comment: so what?

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