A New Presidency

Throughout my professional life I have helped people to develop and express their talents – working with leaders in business and politics, as well as with the new Irish who have joined us from other countries, people with a ‘diffability’, young people and older people.

Like me, all of them had one thing in common – a dream of making a difference.

I helped them to believe that they could do it and then to take the steps they needed to make it happen.

The role of President requires a broad experience of every aspect of Irish life, as well as sound judgment, empathy, courage, expertise and the ability to weigh the advice of experts.

These requirements are second nature to me.

I have used them throughout my long career as a journalist and broadcaster, as a communicator and an educator, and in advising leaders in business and politics who were faced with challenging decisions.

I am an avid reader and student of history and politics. I have read widely on the presidency and its history, and about the women and men who have filled that role in the past. I have studied the Constitution in detail.

I welcome and respect the Constitutional constraints on the office of President, while seeing clearly the ways in which the role can be made to work more effectively for the people of Ireland.

A New Presidency

Throughout my professional life I have helped people to develop and express their talents – working with leaders in business and politics, as well as with the new Irish who have joined us from other countries, people with a ‘diffability’, young people and older people.

Like me, all of them had one thing in common – a dream of making a difference.

I helped them to believe that they could do it and then to take the steps they needed to make it happen.

The role of President requires a broad experience of every aspect of Irish life, as well as sound judgment, empathy, courage, expertise and the ability to weigh the advice of experts.

These requirements are second nature to me.

I have used them throughout my long career as a journalist and broadcaster, as a communicator and an educator, and in advising leaders in business and politics who were faced with challenging decisions.

I am an avid reader and student of history and politics. I have read widely on the presidency and its history, and about the women and men who have filled that role in the past. I have studied the Constitution in detail.

I welcome and respect the Constitutional constraints on the office of President, while seeing clearly the ways in which the role can be made to work more effectively for the people of Ireland.

I welcome and respect the Constitutional constraints on the office of President, while seeing clearly the the ways in which the role can be made to work more effectively for the people of Ireland.

The Role of the President

The President is the voice and the face of Ireland, nationally and internationally; the leader of the national conversation, the holder of the national torch.

It is true to say that the President has only limited, yet significant, powers under the Constitution:

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To refuse to dissolve the Dáil for a Taoiseach who no longer commands a majority

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To refer a Bill to the Supreme Court and to check that it accords with the Constitution

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To address the Dáil and the Seanad together on an important matter

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On receiving a joint petition from the requisite number of TDs and Senators, and after consultation with the Council of State, to refuse to sign a Bill and require that – within 18 months – it be subjected to a referendum or a resolution of a new Dáil, formed following a General Election

All other formal power is exercised by the President strictly on the advice of the Government. For example, signing the Commissions of new officers in the Defence Forces, or receiving the credentials of new Ambassadors to Ireland.

However, the President’s role and influence extends far past the official Constitutional roles. Quite simply, the President is a cornerstone of our democracy and of our wider society. He or she is the person we ask to set the right national tone or mood in times of challenge or celebration. He is the nation’s seanachaí or storyteller, charged with capturing all our wonderful diversity, achievement and aspiration and sharing it widely, both inside and outside the country.

The President’s role and influence extends far past the official Constitutional roles. Quite simply, the President is a cornerstone of our democracy and of our wider society.

The Power to Mentor, Motivate and Mobilise

I also believe that the President has an important role in advocacy, representation, encouragement and acknowledgment – for those who feel marginalised, for people who might feel they have never really had a President for them, and for those who want to right a wrong, mobilise a community or lead positive change.

We have had Presidents in the past who have explored the compassionate and caring dimension to the presidency beyond its formal powers. The first President who tried to explore the ‘soft’ power of the office was Erskine Childers who, tragically, died before he had time to fully explore an enhanced role.

Later Mary Robinson, 1990 – 1997, reached out a hand to the distressed people of war-torn Somalia, and lit a candle in the window of Áras an Uachtarán as a constant reminder of our emigrants and the Irish living abroad. Mary McAleese was a builder of bridges between North and South and between East and West in these islands. Both women played important roles at critical junctures in the evolution of the Northern Ireland peace process and the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement.

None of this type of presidential activity was written down in the Constitution. Yet, these two strong women, both of them distinguished constitutional lawyers, saw that there was a new kind of work to be done and that it could best be done by the President.

I want their evolution of a new and dynamic dimension to the presidency to be, once again, a core value of the office of Uachtarán na hÉireann.

The President is above the cut-and-thrust of party politics and cannot effect political change, but she or he has the power to motivate and inspire debate and dialogue or to channel attention and discussion on important issues that are, ultimately, resolved through politics. I will do that by believing in people and encouraging a ‘can do’ attitude wherever I go.

The Power to Mentor, Motivate and Mobilise

I also believe that the President has an important role in advocacy, representation, encouragement and acknowledgment – for those who feel marginalised, for people who might feel they have never really had a President for them, and for those who want to right a wrong, mobilise a community or lead positive change.

We have had Presidents in the past who have explored the compassionate and caring dimension to the presidency beyond its formal powers. The first President who tried to explore the ‘soft’ power of the office was Erskine Childers who, tragically, died before he had time to fully explore an enhanced role.

Later Mary Robinson, 1990 – 1997, reached out a hand to the distressed people of war-torn Somalia, and lit a candle in the window of Áras an Uachtarán as a constant reminder of our emigrants and the Irish living abroad. Mary McAleese was a builder of bridges between North and South and between East and West in these islands. Both women played important roles at critical junctures in the evolution of the Northern Ireland peace process and the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement.

None of this type of presidential activity was written down in the Constitution. Yet, these two strong women, both of them distinguished constitutional lawyers, saw that there was a new kind of work to be done and that it could best be done by the President.

I want their evolution of a new and dynamic dimension to the presidency to be, once again, a core value of the office of Uachtarán na hÉireann.

The President is above the cut-and-thrust of party politics and cannot effect political change, but she or he has the power to motivate and inspire debate and dialogue or to channel attention and discussion on important issues that are, ultimately, resolved through politics. I will do that by believing in people and encouraging a ‘can do’ attitude wherever I go.

I want their evolution of a new and dynamic dimension to the presidency to be, once again, a core value of the office of Uachtarán na hÉireann.

Returning Power to the People

As President I will be among you, walking with you, listening to you and helping to channel your ideas and concerns through the platform provided by the presidency. The President derives power and influence from the direct votes of the people and it is my aim to return that power to you, so as to help you in your efforts to build a better society.

All of our nine Presidents have contributed so much to the role.

But I draw my personal inspiration from the achievements in office of Erskine Childers, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese – and the prudent but purposeful way they expanded their role.

I too will offer you an evolving, dynamic, new and better presidency.

How You Can Help