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#Áras11: The Tuesday question for Presidential candidates

Each day this week, TheJournal.ie will be hosting Tell Us Why’s question campaign for clarity on the seven candidates’ priorities. Today: what cause they would pursue as President.

Martin McGuinness and David Norris yesterday
Martin McGuinness and David Norris yesterday
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE VOLUNTEER INFORMATION groupTellUsWhy.ie has asked each of the Presidential candidates a question for each day of this week to discern their priorities for the office.

TheJournal.ie is hosting the question – and answers – each day.

Question 2: “Past presidents have had a main focus while in office (eg Mary Robinson and human rights). What would be your main priority as President? Why do you feel that you need to become the President of Ireland to pursue this cause?”

David Norris:

I will put the welfare of the people at the heart of the Presidency. This underpins the three pillars of my campaign, which have been informed by my entire life’s work — mental health and well-being, enterprise and culture.

Gay Mitchell:

Our major crisis, obviously, is the collapse in the economy, and its effects. A president must be a good salesperson on the international stage. S/he must be someone able to network with key policy makers in the EU, the US and beyond.

At home, a side effect of the economic collapse can be seen in the increasing numbers of people dying by suicide. People feel completely overwhelmed by their problems. They feel that there is no way out but to end their lives. As president I want to work with communities to deal with this crisis. We need to let people in difficulty realise that they are not alone, that they do have support in families, communities and society.

I intend as president to put the issue of suicide on the public agenda, to ensure policy makers and communities realise that they need to develop supports for those struggling to cope. We see effects of the economic collapse outside our dole offices. We need to ensure we do not see it in our cemeteries too.

Having served in the European parliament and as the Minister for Europe under John Bruton I have major international contacts. I want to put that experience to use for my country. Knowing the key people to network with is crucial, and I know them. So I can help deliver for Ireland. As a former minister I also have direct personal experience in how government operates, so that would help me in knowing how best to use the presidency on the world stage.

Martin McGuinness:

At a time of unprecedented economic distress my main priority will be to use the office of President to try and attract foreign direct investment to Ireland and support indigenous businesses and I have a proven track record in that regard. Working with Peter Robinson, we have brought new jobs to the North.

I’ve just come back from meetings with Warner Brothers, HBO, Sony and have attracted thousands of new jobs as a result of building up personal relationships with Presidents and vice Presidents of multinational companies. Helping to create jobs is probably the most important contribution that the President can make at this time outside of protecting the Constitution and standing up for the people.

Mary Davis:

For the last 21 years, Ireland has been represented by two wonderful presidents in Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese respectively. Both made substantive contributions to Irish society and worked within the parameters of the role effectively. Both added a symbolic element that captured the hearts of the Irish people. My main priority would be restoring our sense of pride. People continuously ask me, ‘How is it possible to do that? After all pride is an intangible thing’. I disagree with this position.

Ireland is reeling. What we need now is to champion the grassroots groups that are working tirelessly to create a more equal, supportive Ireland. Whilst we all argue about macroeconomic issues, we have forgotten about the people on the ground on the front lines of the battle to create a more equal society. These inspirational people and their achievements are not being recognised in a meaningful way. A President that shines a light on these people and their achievements can make the nation feel proud again. I want to create a citizen’s award, different to the Gaisce which focuses on the completion of a set of tasks to be in contention. My scheme would be aimed at raising the profile of small, community-based projects and giving them a national voice. This would show the Irish people that it’s not all darkness and cynicism.

There is someone who is willing to listen and champion their hard work and social commitments. We need to change our national discourse back to what matters most; the tremendous and courageous work of ordinary people. Over the last 30 years this has been my life’s work. I have always been dedicated to bringing people into the centre.

Michael D. Higgins:

My main priority will be in promoting a truly inclusive citizenship, where everybody participates and is treated with respect, in a creative society that is opening up new possibilities in every area of life, as part of the building of a real Republic – one that make us proud to be Irish in the world.

I will promote a new and positive idea of what it means to be a citizen in Ireland, a citizenship that goes beyond beyond individualism or consumerism and recognizes each persons dignity and contribution and also recognizes that we can achieve more by working together – this also means challenging exclusion and discrimination.

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As President, I would support creative communities and creative industries. Creativity, combining the best of tradition with the spark of innovation, opens up new possibilities in every area of life from science and education to technology to artisan foods and it can play a vital role in our social and economic development.

I believe that as we approach the many important anniverseries of the foundation of our state and drafting of our constitution this is an important time to reflect on how we can become a real Republic of equals. I would be encouraging every citizen to engage with the major review of our Constitution next year and will also be holding Presidency Seminars to explore wider issues.

I am also determined to strengthen every aspect of our international reputation and ensure that the new emigrating Irish will not become the new Forgotten Irish abroad but will remain engaged with us while abroad, contribute to our economic and social recovery and hopefully be able to return to us again.

These are the four strands of my vision for the Presidency and they are underpinned by a lifetime of working for equality, promoting creativity and defending human rights both in Ireland and internationally.

Seán Gallagher:

I want to do what for job creation what President Mary McAleese has done for the peace process. I want to put enterprise at the heart of the next Presidency because local jobs are the glue that communities together. I know that I can make a positive contribution to our country’s recovery.

As our economy has suffered so have our communities. At home I want to highlight and celebrate what is working in enterprise and our communities to encourage and inspire others. Unemployment and emigration are the key issues facing our country now and our next President must pioneer to set the tone to deal with these challenges.

Abroad, I want to help to lead trade missions to attract foreign investment, open new markets and promote tourism.

Dana Rosemary Scallon: Failed to return an answer to the question.

Question No. 3 will be answered tomorrow morning: “If you were on a State visit to China, and invited to make a keynote address, what would be your primary focus?”

Question No. 1: The answers>

Read TheJournal.ie’s coverage of the Race for the Áras>

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