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President Higgins: 'We are a very long way from adequately addressing issues of hierarchy'

President Michael D Higgins spoke to Ryan Tubridy ahead of International Women’s Day tomorrow.

Image: Phil Walter via Getty Images

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has said that Ireland is a “very long away from addressing issues of hierarchy”.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Ryan Tubridy to mark International Women’s Day, Higgins spoke of how he believes today’s Ireland is a good place for women, but went on to discuss the problems society still faces in relation to gender equality.

Higgins touched upon the situation in recent weeks in which the Vatican barred former President of Ireland Mary McAleese from taking part in an International Women’s Day conference which was due to take place in the Holy See.

The inclusion of McAleese and advocate Ssenfuka Joanita Warry on the speaker panel was opposed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.

McAleese has been a longtime supporter of LGBT rights. While she is a devout Catholic, she has often spoken publicly about frustrations with the Church over its stringent views on LGBT people.

“I was deeply and concerned about recent exclusions of her. I think she’s a very important person in speaking on matters of spiritual significance, not just spiritual significance but in terms of the right to believe,” Higgins said.

That was one of the most important things that had to happen is removing exclusions, exclusions from discourse, exclusions from thinking. We had our censorship period.

“It’s just a healthier society when you have equality of participation. We’re not fully there yet, I think, in terms of the gap… in income, in relation to pensions,” he said.

#MeToo

Keeping on the topic of women’s rights, Tubridy asked Higgins about his stance on the #MeToo movement.

Higgins said that he thinks it is very important and that “we are a very long way from adequately addressing issues of hierarchy, issues of patriarchy”.

“I think it’s not the full story because at its root is an abuse of power, really,” he said.

Looking forward to the coming decade with regards to women’s rights, Higgins said: “We are really going to have to, in the decade that is to come, accept the redefinition of work that recognises all those tasks that are so vital that are not sufficiently recognised or rewarded.”

Second term

A presidential election is due to be held in October but if no candidates are put forward President Higgins will be re-elected without a contest, if he decides he wants another seven-year stint in Áras an Uachtaráin.

Tubridy pressed Higgins on whether he will run for a second term, something he has yet to confirm.

“The summer will decide that. I am getting a lot of letters and people are asking me what is to happen. My term ends in November and by summer I think everyone will know where we stand,” Higgins said.

“By summer I will have replied not only to the letters, but people will know,” he said.

I needed time to think, I am thinking and reflecting on what people are saying to me.

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