President's comments on Louise Richardson were 'disgraceful', says forum panellist

President's Comments On Louise Richardson Were 'Disgraceful', Says Forum Panellist
Prof John O'Brennan described the 'attack' as being 'almost without precedent' from an Irish President. Photo: PA
Share this article

Olivia Kelleher

Comments made by President Michael D Higgins about Professor Louise Richardson were "not just ill-considered but disgraceful," according to the director of the Maynooth Centre for European Integration Studies, Prof John O'Brennan.

Prof O'Brennan will be a panellist at the upcoming Consultative Forum on International Security Policy, which Prof Richardson will be chairing.


President Higgins has apologised to Prof Richardson for questioning her role and saying she was a "person with a very large DBE – Dame of the British Empire."

Prof O'Brennan described the "attack" as being "almost without precedent" from an Irish President.

"She is a person of estimable reputation. The jibe about the British Empire just seems extraordinarily incongruous to me," Prof O'Brennan said.

"I have never heard President Higgins say anything of that kind about people like Sir Bob Geldof for example or any of the other people in the arts and culture world who have received honours from the British."


"At a stroke it also undermined all the good effort that President Michael D Higgins himself has made around British/Irish relations over the years."


Meanwhile, Prof O'Brennan said he had always been very open on his position on neutrality.

"[Irish neutrality] has always been mythical. It has become something of a sacred cow over time. I have been for a long time advocating that Ireland join Nato.

"We have obligations to our European partners and in my view the ostrich-like mentality that we have operated over the years is not one that can be sustained in an environment both in Europe and internationally where the security landscape has changed enormously. We have to face up to our responsibilities and our obligations."


Prof O'Brennan said it was important to emphasise that his voice was a "minority voice" at the forum.

"What President Higgins did was to reduce the forum to kind of caricatures being exclusively about military security when in fact the range of topics to be discussed is vastly broader.

"It includes cybersecurity, hybrid threats, threats to our critical infrastructure, threats to food security, the importance of maritime surveillance as well as peace keeping conflict resolution and a whole panoply of other things.What his comments did was to at a stroke almost delegitimise the work of the forum before it had begun."

He questioned whether it was appropriate for the President to make remarks of the kind he communicated to the Sunday Business Post.

"Imagine a context for example where he was advocating in favour of joining Nato. There would be outrage throughout the country."

Read More

Message submitting... Thank you for waiting.

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© 2023, developed by Square1 and powered by