Michael D Higgins NUI Honorary Degree Citation

NUI HONORARY CONFERRING – JANUARY 2012

INTRODUCTION OF PRESIDENT MICHAEL D. HIGGINS BY DR. JAMES J. BROWNE, PRESIDENT OF NUI GALWAY


A Sheansailéir, a Mhuintir na hOllscoile agus a dhaoine uaisle,

Extraordinary men are more ordinary than the rest of us.

Today we honour an extraordinary man who personifies and combines so many decencies that, taken individually, we perceive to be ordinary.

As the ninth President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins is, somewhat paradoxically, the primus inter pares or first among equals. This phrase was first used by the late President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh to characterise the Irish presidency and remains apt to this day.

Writing in 2006, Professor Declan Kiberd said of Michael D. Higgins:

“Democracy for this man is the dissemination of a common culture as widely as possible among a people audacious enough to imagine their own present and future.”

This commitment to radical egalitarianism animated his claim to be elected as Uachtarán na hÉireann in 2011.

In the spirit of the late Tony Judt, it posited a moral choice not between the state and the market but between two versions of the state. We were invited to reconceive the role of government in a re-imagined state and to engage without shame in an ethically informed public conversation about the choices that this would entail.

It was an unapologetic claim that placed ethics before competence in what he prescribed as ‘a real Republic’. It challenged the Irish people to accept that adjustment by daring to re-imagine and revive almost-forgotten decencies. Over one million voters rose to that challenge.


Michael D. Higgins has always been, in the words of An Taoiseach, Enda Kennny, T.D: “a noble man of quiet virtue...fear ón Iarthar tagtha chun cinn”.

As a scholar, public intellectual and poet he has remained habitually resident in the world but domiciled in the world of ideas. For him there is no wall between intellectual analysis and felt experience; rationality can never be compromised by emotional engagement; reason is important but so too is instinct.

This integration of thought and feeling marked him out as a politician of unusual passion and intrepidity. In striving for a version of ourselves and society not yet realised he was and remains a utopian. Few see politics as a utopian enterprise but Michael D. Higgins has gone into ‘the heart of the machine’ without forgetting the ideals that propelled him into politics. To that extent he is a committed utopian.

Elected to Galway City and County Councils in 1974, he remained involved in local government for eighteen years serving two terms as Mayor of Galway (1982-’83 and 1991-’92).

He was appointed to Seanad Éireann in 1973 by the then Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave. First elected to Dáil Éireann in 1981 he lost his seat in Galway-West in the November 1982 general election and was subsequently elected to Seanad Éireann on the NUI panel. He regained his Dáil seat in 1987 and represented Galway-West as a T.D. until 2011.

Always prominent in the Labour Party, whether on the front bench or not, he achieved ministerial office in 1992 when he was appointed as the first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

His period in that office was distinguished. It saw the burgeoning of an indigenous film industry, the establishment of Teilifís na Gaeilge (now TG4) and the termination of the controversial Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act. As Minister, Michael D. Higgins invigorated the process of establishing community-based centres of excellence for the Arts throughout the country, recognising the need for a supportive infrastructure for creativity and artistic endeavour as well as access to the arts for all citizens. Moreover, he drove the revitalisation of Ireland’s canal network, resulting in over 1,000 kilometres of navigable waterways, supporting thousands of jobs, and creating wealth in many rural and economically-deprived areas of the State.

Rud is annamh i gcás polaiteora atá sáite i bpolaitíocht logánta agus náisiúnta, chuir  Michael D. Higgins spéis láidir i gcónaí i gcúrsaí idirnáisiúnta. Thug sin an deis dó agus chuir ar a chumas comhar agus cearta daonna na gciníocha ar fud na cruinne a chur chun cinn agus a chur i gcrích ar bhealaí praiticiúla. 

Whether it involved people in Latin-America, the Carribean, the Middle-East or the African continent Michael D. Higgins identified, amplified and championed the rights and interests of communities that he described as ‘comhluadar faoi bhrón’. He did so without fear, using everything at his disposal: politics, sociology, broadcasting, journalism and poetry.

In 1992, he was the first recipient of the Seán MacBride Peace Prize from the International Peace Bureau in Helsinki, in recognition of his work for peace and justice in many parts of the world.

His ability to understand and empathise with the condition of the marginalised drew on real insight born of experience. Born in 1941 in Limerick he was raised from the age of five with his brother, John, by an uncle and aunt in Newmarket on Fergus, Co. Clare. He was educated at Ballycar National School by an inspirational teacher, William Clune, who, in the words of President Higgins, respected all children as ‘carriers of wonderment’.

Michael D. Higgins’s poetry draws eloquently on the natural beauty of the place in which he was reared but it is not what he terms ‘pastoral nonsense’. It does not use nature to hide or obliterate the darker sensations of a lived social reality. It is truthful and powerful, its power deriving from a transcendent immediacy and empathic humanity.

In 1955 he attended St. Flannan’s College in Ennis. He describes St. Flannan’s as having been placed on this earth for three things: (1) to win the Harty Cup; (2) to win the gold medal in Greek; and (3) to send priests to the diocese. No doubt, attaining high political office will now be added to this list of key performance indicators!

Following a period working as a Grade 8 Clerk at the ESB in Galway he entered University College Galway as a mature student where he distinguished himself in curricular and extra-curricular pursuits becoming Auditor of the Literary & Debating Society and President of the Students’ Union. He graduated with a BA in 1965 and a BComm in 1966. Subsequently, he studied as a post-graduate student at Indiana University and Manchester University.

Chaith sé níos mó ná tríocha bliain ag léachtóireacht in Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh, áit a raibh cáil mhór air mar shocheolaí den scoth agus mar scríbhneoir agus iriseoir bisiúil.
Freisin tuigeann sé tábhacht na Gaeilge i saol agus cultúr na tíre.  Tá Gaeilge thar a bheith líofa aige agus glacann sé gach seans an Ghaeilge a úsáid agus a chur chun chin.

He married Sabina Coyne, from Mayo, in 1974. She and their four children – Daniel, Michael, John and Alice-Mary – have shared his many enthusiasms whether political, artistic or cultural.

If the presidency is the sweet branch of the tree of government the blossoms of that sweet branch – to borrow the phrase of the poet, John Montague – are surely Michael D. and Sabina.

The presidency of Michael D. Higgins may well reverse the adage of campaigning in poetry but governing in prose. Already, he is asserting the true value of rhetoric, purposefully and forthrightly deployed, evincing the defining quality of this truly extraordinary man – integrity.

A Sheansailéir,

Is ábhar bróid dom é a Shoilse, Micheál D. Ó hUiginn, Uachtarán na hÉireann, a chur i do láthair le go mbronnfaí air céim LL.D na hOllscoile, honoris causa…

Praehonorabilis Cancellarie, praesento vobis, hunc meum filium  quem scio tam moribus quam doctrina habilem et idoneum esse qui admittatur, honoris causa, ad gradum Doctoratus in utroque Jure, tam Civili quam Canonico, idque tibi fide mea testur ac spondeo, totique Academiae.

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BRONNADH OINIGH OÉ – EANÁIR 2012

AN TUACHTARÁN MÍCHEÁL D. Ó HUIGINN Á CHUR I LÁTHAIR AG AN DR JAMES J. BROWNE, UACHTARÁN OÉ GAILLIMH


A Sheansailéir, a Mhuintir na hOllscoile agus a dhaoine uaisle,

Tá fir neamhghnácha níos gnáiche ná an chuid eile againn.

Inniu tugaimid aitheantas d’fhear neamhghnách a thugann chun saoil an oiread sin dea-thréithe, agus dá mbreathnóimis ar gach aon cheann acu sin astu féin níorbh iontach linn iad ar chor ar bith.

Mar an naoú Uachtarán ar Éirinn tá Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn, go paradacsúil, mar primus inter pares nó an chéad duine dá leithéid ina chomhluadar. Is é an tUachtarán Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, nach maireann, a d’úsáid an ráiteas sin ar dtús chun cur síos a dhéanamh ar uachtaránacht na hÉireann agus tá sé tráthúil fós sa lá atá inniu ann.

Agus é ag scríobh faoi Mhícheál D. Ó hUiginn in 2006, dúirt an tOllamh Declan Kiberd:

“Democracy for this man is the dissemination of a common culture as widely as possible among a people audacious enough to imagine their own present and future.”

Is é an tiomantas seo do chothromas radacach a chabhraigh lena iarracht a bheith tofa mar Uachtarán na hÉireann in 2011.

Mar a bhíodh á mhaíomh ag Tony Judt, nach maireann, leag sé síos rogha morálta idir dhá leagan den stát seachas idir an stát agus an margadh. Tugadh cuireadh dúinn ról an rialtais a athcheapadh i stát athchruthaithe agus páirt a ghlacadh, gan náire, i gcaidreamh poiblí eiticiúil faoi na roghanna a bheadh i gceist leis seo.

Éileamh gan leithscéal a bhí ann a chuir eiticí roimh inniúlacht sa rud a thug sé féin an ‘fhíor-Phoblacht’ air. Thug sé dúshlán mhuintir na hÉireann glacadh leis an athrú sin trí bheith sách dána chun dea-thréithe a bhí ligthe i ndearmad a thabhairt chun beochta arís. Ghlac os cionn milliún den lucht vótála leis an dúshlán sin.


I bhfocail an Taoisigh, Enda Kenny, T.D., bhí Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn i gcónaí ina: “noble man of quiet virtue...fear ón Iarthar tagtha chun cinn”.

Mar scoláire, intleachtóir poiblí agus file bhí cónaí air i gcónaí ar an domhan seo ach chuir sé faoi i ndomhan na smaointe. Dar leis níl aon bhalla idir anailís intleachtach agus an taithí saoil; ní féidir le réasúntacht géilleadh do mhothúcháin; baineann tábhacht le réasún ach tá tábhacht freisin le hinstinn.

Is é an teacht le chéile seo de smaointe agus de mhothúcháin a rinne polaiteoir le paisean suaithinseach agus neamheagla de. Agus é ag iarraidh teacht ar leagan dínn féin agus den tsochaí nach bhfuil ar fáil go fóill is útóipeach a bhí ann agus is ea fós. Is beag duine a bhreathnaíonn ar an bpolaitíocht mar fhiontar útóipeach agus tá Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn tar éis dul go lár an aonaigh gan dearmad a dhéanamh ar na hidéil a chuir i dtreo na polaitíochta é. Chuige seo is útóipeach tiomanta é.

Toghadh é ar Chomhairlí cathrach agus contae na Gaillimhe i 1974, bhí baint aige le rialtas áitiúil ar feadh ocht mbliana déag agus chaith sé dhá théarma mar Mhéara na Gaillimhe (1982 -’83 agus 1991-’92).

Cheap Taoiseach na linne sin, Liam Cosgrave, ina bhall de Sheanad Éireann é sa bhliain 1973. Toghadh mar bhall de Dháil Éireann ar dtús é i 1981 ach chaill sé a shuíochán i nGaillimh Thiar in olltoghchán mhí na Samhna 1982. Toghadh ina dhiaidh sin é mar bhall de Sheanad Éireann ar phainéal an OÉ. Fuair sé a shuíochán Dála ar ais arís i 1987 agus sheas sé do Ghaillimh Thiar mar T.D. go dtí 2011.

Bhí páirt lárnach aige i gcónaí i bPáirtí an Lucht Oibre, bíodh sé ar an mBinse Tosaigh nó ná bíodh, rinneadh Aire de i 1992 nuair a ceapadh é mar an chéad Aire Ealaíon, Cultúir agus Gaeltachta.

Bhí an tréimhse a chaith sé san oifig sin ar ardchaighdeán. Le linn na tréimhse chonacthas athbheochan thionscal scannán na tíre, bunú Theilifís na Gaeilge (TG4 anois) agus deireadh le hAlt 31 den Acht Craolacháin, alt a bhí thar a bheith conspóideach. Mar Aire, thug Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn próiseas a bhain le hionaid feabhais pobalbhunaithe do na hEalaíona ar fud na tíre chun beochta, agus é ag tabhairt aitheantais don riachtanas a bhí ann d’infreastruchtúr tacaíochta do dhianiarrachtaí cruthaitheacha agus ealaíonta chomh maith le rochtain a bheith ag gach duine ar na healaíona. Anuas air sin, bhrúigh sé athbheochan na gcanálacha in Éirinn. Mar thoradh air seo, tá breis agus 1,000 ciliméadar d’uiscebhealaí inseolta againn, rud a chuireann le fostaíocht agus le saibhreas i gceantair thuaithe agus i gceantair bhochta na tíre.

Rud is annamh i gcás polaiteora atá sáite i bpolaitíocht logánta agus náisiúnta, chuir Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn spéis láidir i gcónaí i gcúrsaí idirnáisiúnta. Thug sin an deis dó agus chuir ar a chumas comhar agus cearta daonna na gciníocha ar fud na cruinne a chur chun cinn agus a chur i gcrích ar bhealaí praiticiúla.
 
D’oibrigh Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn ar son chearta agus leasa phobail Mheiriceá Laidinigh, an Chairibigh, an Mheán-Oirthir agus na hAfraice agus rinne sé cur síos orthu mar ‘chomhluadar faoi bhrón’. Rinne sé é sin gan aon fhaitíos ach ag tarraingt ar an bpolaitíocht, an tsocheolaíocht, an chraoltóireacht, an iriseoireacht agus an fhilíocht.

I 1992, ba é an chéad duine é a fuair Duais Síochána Sheáin Mhic Giolla Bhríde ón mBiúró Síochána Idirnáisiúnta i Heilsincí, mar aitheantas ar a shaothar ar son na síochána agus an cheartais ar fud an domhain.

Bhí tuiscint agus bá aige leo siúd ar an imeall mar gheall ar a thaithí féin. Rugadh i 1941 i Luimneach é agus ó bhí sé cúig bliana d’aois, b’uncail agus aintín leis i gCora Chaitlín, i gCo. an Chláir, a thóg é féin agus a dheartháir, John.  Fuair sé a chuid oideachais i mBunscoil Bhaile an Chathraigh ó mhúinteoir den scoth, William Clune, a raibh, i bhfocail an Uachtaráin Uí Uiginn, meas aige ar gach gasúr mar ‘iompróirí iontais’.

Bíonn cur síos i bhfilíocht Mhícheál D. Ó hUiginn ar an áilleacht nádúrtha san áit ar tógadh é ach ní ‘seafóid tuaithe’ atá ann mar a deir sé féin. Ní úsáideann a chuid filíochta an dúlra chun dorchadas an tsaoil a chur i bhfolach ann. Tá sí fírinneach agus cumhachtach mar gheall ar láithreacht dhearscnaitheach agus daonnacht bháúil.

I 1955, d’fhreastail sé ar Choláiste Fhlannáin in Inis. Deir sé faoi Choláiste Fhlannáin gur ann dó ar thrí chúis: (1) Corn Mhic Artaigh a bhuachan; (2) an bonn óir sa Ghréigis a bhuachan; agus (3) sagairt a chur chuig an deoise. Gan dabht, cuirfear ardoifig pholaitíochta ar liosta na spriocanna le baint amach anois!

Chaith sé tréimhse ag obair mar chléireach Grád 8 ag BSL i nGaillimh agus ansin d’fhreastail sé ar Choláiste na hOllscoile, Gaillimh mar mhac léinn aibí áit ar bhain sé cáil amach dó féin i ngníomhaíochtaí curaclaim agus seach-churaclaim mar Iniúchóir ar an gCumann Liteartha & Díospóireachta agus mar Uachtarán ar Chomhaltas na Mac Léinn. Bronnadh BA air i 1965 agus BComm i 1966.  Ina dhiaidh sin, rinne sé staidéar mar mhac léinn iarchéime in Ollscoil Indiana agus in Ollscoil Mhanchain.

Chaith sé níos mó ná tríocha bliain ag léachtóireacht in Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh, áit a raibh cáil mhór air mar shocheolaí den scoth agus mar scríbhneoir agus mar iriseoir bisiúil.
Freisin tuigeann sé tábhacht na Gaeilge i saol agus cultúr na tíre.  Tá Gaeilge thar a bheith líofa aige agus glacann sé gach seans an Ghaeilge a úsáid agus a chur chun chin.

Phós sé Sabina Coyne, as Maigh Eo, i 1974. Tá an tsuim chéanna ag Sabina agus a gceathrar clainne – Daniel, Michael, John agus Alice-Mary – sna nithe céanna leis féin, an pholaitíocht, na healaíona agus an cultúr.

Más í an uachtaránacht brainse milis chrann an rialtais – mar ar chuir an file, John Montague, síos uirthi – is iad bláthanna an bhrainse mhilis sin Michael D. agus Sabina cinnte.

Tá an nath ann go ndéantar feachtais i bhfilíocht agus rialú i bprós ach le huachtaránacht Mhícheál D. Ó hUiginn d’fhéadfadh a mhalairt a bheith fíor. Cheana féin, tá sé ag baint an leasa chirt as reitric, d’aon turas agus go neamhbhalbh, ag léiriú an tréith is mó atá ag an bhfear iontach seo – ionracas.

A Sheansailéir,

Is ábhar bróid dom é a Shoilse, Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn, Uachtarán na hÉireann, a chur i do láthair le go mbronnfaí air céim LL.D na hOllscoile, honoris causa…


Praehonorabilis Cancellarie, praesento vobis, hunc meum filium  quem scio tam moribus quam doctrina habilem et idoneum esse qui admittatur, honoris causa, ad gradum Doctoratus in utroque Jure, tam Civili quam Canonico, idque tibi fide mea testur ac spondeo, totique Academiae.