Michael D's re-election campaign swings into Cork

Michael D's re-election campaign swings into Cork
President Michael D Higgins and wife Sabina Higgins pictured meeting Dr Margaret O'Connor, who was visiting her original wedding venue, the Imperial Hotel, Cork on her 58th wedding anniversary. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

"He's the cutest man I've ever seen!" squealed one teenage girl to her friends as they saw President Michael D. Higgins walking down Oliver Plunkett Street this afternoon.

Miggeldy-mania was in full swing as the President's re-election campaign stopped in Cork.

President Michael D Higgins pictured at his Presidential re-election campaign event at the Imperial Hotel, Cork. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
President Michael D Higgins pictured at his Presidential re-election campaign event at the Imperial Hotel, Cork. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Flanked by his wife, Sabina, and surrounded by local supporters, he was met with swathes of people seeking photos, a chat, or just to shake his hand and wish him well.

But beyond the loftiness of his title, his youthful fandom, and his status as an internet darling, President Higgins still seems to see himself as a social justice activist.

A group of people experiencing homelessness approached him on Prince's Street. Rather than dodging them or moving on swiftly, he stopped, listened, and sympathised.

It wasn't just a stunt. Earlier in the morning, he told reporters that he backs Fr Peter McVerry's call for a three-year moratorium on evictions - a rare policy intervention by a sitting President.

He was in Cork to launch an initiative on equality of opportunity that he will lead if re-elected and spoke passionately about breaking down barriers for everyone from people with disabilities to victims of economic circumstance.

Contrasting himself with other politicians, he spoke about how proud he was that he and Sabina did not join the big social movements of recent years at the finish line - they were there at the start, when supporting abortion access or LGBT rights were risks for politicians.

President Michael D Higgins at the Poetry Corner at the Farmgate in the English Market. Pic: Clare Keogh
President Michael D Higgins at the Poetry Corner at the Farmgate in the English Market. Pic: Clare Keogh

He spoke about the tangible achievements of his first term, including a joint UCC-WIT research centre working on ethics and economics, which emerged from his ethics initiative.

The reason young people admire President Higgins goes beyond selfies. They see him as a politician that reflects their values. Former Labour TD Kathleen Lynch said that he looks at them in the same way.

"He connects very much with younger people. He sometimes has disagreements with people that are conservative, but he finds young people not at all conservative and always open to new ideas," she said.

She said that people's admiration for President Higgins stretches back well before he became head of state.

"No matter what group came to the Dáil for a visit, they all wanted to meet Michael D. He's unique - his ability to communicate. His ability to put ideas into words."

President Michael D Higgins, Sabina Higgins and activist Joanne O'Riordan pictured at President Higgins' election campaign event at the Imperial Hotel. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
President Michael D Higgins, Sabina Higgins and activist Joanne O'Riordan pictured at President Higgins' election campaign event at the Imperial Hotel. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

"Myself and Jack Wall [former Kildare TD] used to have dinner with him every Wednesday night when we'd be waiting to vote. We used to sit back and take delight in the stories he would tell, and the way he would express himself," she said.

In the English Market, where the President stopped to present the Farmgate Cafe with a handwritten poem to join the likes of Seamus Heaney and Theo Dorgan on their poetry wall, a self-described 'old granny' waited patiently to meet the President.

She said that he had done Ireland proud abroad while raising important ideas with people at home. Like everyone else who met him yesterday, she thought he was going to walk into a second term and she was more than happy with that.

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