Senator Michael McDowell has described comments by President Michael D Higgins on Thursday about attempts by billionaires to control public discourse as a “return to type”.
“Michael D reverts to type, I have to say. I like him dearly, he reverts to type back to student socialist politics of the 1970s with this kind of thinking that the State has been ravaged. He is perfectly entitled to have a view, but he should be moderate in the language he uses,” Senator McDowell told RTÉ radio's Today with Claire Byrne show.
Speaking at the establishment of the DCU Centre for Climate and Society in Dublin on Thursday, the president said “social discourse” must move away from a laissez-faire economic narrative to meet today’s urgent global challenges. While he did not identify Elon Musk by name, Mr Higgins voiced concern about the ownership of media platforms.
Senator McDowell said he agreed with the president. “The fact that a huge organ of international opinion and expression can be sold by its board to a person like Elon Musk and made private and made subject to his whim thereafter is concerning. It does strike me that bodies as important as Twitter probably should be regulated in a way that requires their ownership to be spread and diversified so that a single individual can't just arrive and make a bid and make it into his private domain. I agree with him on that. I'm not going to tog out against him on that issue.
“In Ireland in the past there was an element of narcissism to people who tried to buy up large chunks of our media. I've said that in the past. So the same applies to this with even greater importance.”
'Old fashioned left wing socialist'
Senator McDowell described the President as an old fashioned left wing socialist.
“He is what he is, he is the old fashioned left wing socialist - left to his own devices and in front of a student audience in a university the real Michael D comes out. Everybody knew that was the nature of the man. He is more pro Cuba than pro America. We know these things about him. To be honest I don't think he did himself a service by delivering an unbalanced speech of this kind, attacking all the successes that have been so important for Ireland over the last 30 years.”
The Senator also took issue with the President’s scripted remarks which he described as “a bit odd and a bit off.”
“He announced that the State had been ravaged due to decades of attack from an orthodox, laissez faire economic narrative that demanded that its role must be minimal noninterventionist while asserting that the private sector should lead in all aspects of life - that simply is not the case.”
That was not the case, he said as there were regulations.
“The State in the 1970s was in an immeasurably worse condition than it is now. People were poorer, emigration was there, the State owned vast tracts of the economy, they had monopolies in phones, broadcasting, in energy, in shipping, right across the board, insurance, they had all sorts of fingers in everything. We were failing as an economy.
“I do think that Michael D should take a long hard look at the society which he rightly said was unjust in the 1970s and look at today's Ireland and not say that the State has been ravaged by what has happened in the meantime.”