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Dr Bhamjee backs ‘a safe pair of hands’

Election Special

Michael D Higgins was once derided by the former Progressive Democrat leader, Dessie O’Malley as likely to “go mad” if he was made a government minister.

Michael D Higgins was once derided by the former Progressive Democrat leader, Dessie O’Malley as likely to “go mad” if he was made a government minister.
Back in 1992, O’Malley took a swipe at the Labour deputy before Labour took the bold and controversial move to form a new administration with the Soldiers of Destiny.
The 70-year-old poet, author and human rights campaigner, certainly had the last laugh when he was elected as the ninth President of Ireland, thanks to a landslide victory on Saturday.
Looking back at this period, former Clare Labour deputy, Moosajee Bhamjee felt Deputy O’Malley made the unwarranted attack because he was smarting with Fianna Fáil’s decision to choose Labour over the Progressive Democrats as a new Government partner.
The history books show Michael D went on to serve as a very effective Minister for Arts and the Gaeltacht and didn’t go mad. In fact, he helped provide funding for the establishment of a new Irish television station TG4, assisted the development of the fledging Irish film industry and did a huge amount for the promotion of theatre and various art disciplines.
Dr Bhamjee recalled Deputy Higgins was very supportive when he asked to provide some funding for the Miko Russell Centre in Doolin.
“Michael D was quite easy going in Cabinet but he knew his brief quite well. While you could describe him as an intellectual, he had great common sense and was very accessible to backbenchers.
“I remember he was always asking about Clare when we had a discussion. I think a large number of people see Michael D as a Newmarket-on-Fergus man and a Clareman.
“He gave a talk on the Nicaragua revolution after completing a fact-finding mission to the country to a group of about 100 people in a youth centre on the Kilrush Road in the ’90s. He also used to give poetry readings in the Auburn Lodge Hotel in Ennis,” he said.
Dr Bhamjee admitted he was surprised to see the surge in support in the opinion polls of up to 40% for Seán Gallagher a week before the election. Up to this point, the Ennis-based consultant psychiatrist felt Mr Higgins was a “sure winner”.
Having heard that a large number of people changed their minds about Seán Gallagher following claims he collected €5,000 in an envelope at a Fianna Fail fundraiser in June 2008 and switched their support to Mr Higgins, Dr Bhamjee felt this was a key turning point in the Presidential campaign.
Dr Bhamjee says he doesn’t believe Higgins’ age will be a limiting factor and the new President will have the energy to travel the world and promote Ireland in the best possible fashion abroad.
“Michael D is a very articulate speaker, who will promote Ireland very well on the international stage. A fluent Irish speaker, he will also promote the Irish culture and language.
“He will be a safe pair of hands and will be able to deal competently with any constitutional crisis which may emerge and will consider all the facts carefully before making a final decision.
“No one viewed him as a Labour President because a very large percentage of his vote came from non Labour voters,” he said.


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