President Higgins stands out from the other candidates in the field as having the aim of building a more equal society based on peace and solidarity both at home and abroad. During his time as President, he has used his platform to criticise capitalism’s corrosive impact on human dignity via its incessant increase in economic inequality. He has a consistent record going back to the 1980s of opposing US imperialism’s role in poor and vulnerable countries around the world, including recent public criticism of UN Security Council members for fuelling wars through their arms sales.
He supported abortion rights, and the principle of separating church from state, well before these things had been accepted by most Irish political parties, not least his erstwhile colleagues in the Labour Party. He has a record of long-term support of women’s equality and gay rights.
Of course, The Workers’ Party is not without significant differences with President Higgins. We base our aspirations for a free and equal society not simply on ethical values — necessary though they are — but on the dynamic of class struggle and the necessity to build a workers party to wage it. The absence of such a perspective militates against the development of an independent class movement which alone can build a socialist society.
It is a dispiriting sign of the times that the field includes no less than three men whose primary qualification for the role of President is their position as television propagandists for capitalist ideology.
The election of one of these individuals to the office of President would give yet another platform to those who seek to ensure that political debate in our country completely ignores the interests of the working class while further entrenching the normalisation of free market dogma: the commodification of public services, exaltation of profit-making, and the concomitant widespread alienation that is spreading throughout Irish society.
The Workers’ Party is of the view that the office of the President is of limited value to the country. It is a mostly ceremonial position with a few powers regarding the formation and dissolution of governments. It is, of course, no substitute for mass struggle and the development of a class party.
However, it would be simplistic to suggest it doesn’t matter who our President is. It would be embarrassing indeed if one of the television imbeciles made it to the Phoenix Park, thereby condemning us to seven years of their ignorant and egocentric babbling.
Any public platform with as much reach as the Presidency can be used to influence popular opinion in one direction or another. We believe President Higgins has the best capacity to sway public opinion in favour of a more just world, and that socialists and progressives should give him their support in the forthcoming election.