Archive for Michael D Higgins

Message from President Michael D. Higgins to Third-Level Students

Posted in Covid-19, Education, Politics with tags , on December 11, 2020 by telescoper

I saw this yesterday and thought I’d share it here, partly because it contains lots of thoughtful comments* for students – especially first-year students – currently in third-level education, and partly because it is a reminder that it is possible for the President of a country to be an intelligent, kind and empathic person…

*I’m proud to say that many of his comments echo those I used to make at induction events for new students long before the Covid-10 pandemic!

Marking the End of Term

Posted in Maynooth with tags , , , , , on May 11, 2019 by telescoper

So here we are, then. The term is finally over. Lectures officially finished yesterday, and there’s now another week or so before examinations start (next Friday, 17th May). The examinations for my two modules take place on Tuesday 21st and Wednesday 22nd May, and after that I’ll be busy with marking for a while. In fact, I’ll probably be getting much busier in general pretty soon, but more of that in due course…


Marking doesn’t just mean written examinations. I have been teaching a module on Computational Physics to 3rd Year students here in Maynooth, and 40% of the assessment for that is a mini-project (usually done in groups of two or three). Early on the term, I put up a list of a dozen or so projects and ask them to pick first second and third choices so I can form groups in such a way that most students get to work on a project they like the look of. This year I made up a new set of projects, but I feel a bit sorry for one of them (`Scattering in a Spherical Potential’), which didn’t appear anywhere \at all on any student’s list of preferences. That’s a shame as I thought it was a well-rounded project, with lots of potential. Hopefully it will prove more popular next year…

Anyway, the deadline for projects to be handed in came yesterday so I’ve got a stack of those to mark which, you will realise, why I am indulging in a displacement activity by writing this blog post. My plan is to mark these next week so that they’re done before the written examinations come in.

Before I get on with what I should be doing I’ll just mention another thing that happened yesterday: the President of Ireland (Uachtarán na hÉireann), Michael D. Higgins visited Maynooth University yesterday:

That’s him at the front, on the right, of course. The reason for his visit was to attend a memorial service.

Uachtarán na hÉireann

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 29, 2018 by telescoper

To nobody’s great surprise, Saturday’s count saw Michael D Higgins reelected as President of Ireland by a considerable margin. His acceptance speech on Saturday night was very eloquent and statesmanlike: you can listen to it here.

The Presidency of Ireland is a ceremonial rather than an executive office, and it has little actual power associated with it. It is nevertheless important in that the President is the guardian of the Constitution as well as representing the Irish Nation as a kind of ambassador and as patron of many good causes.

The way the election worked is that voters rank all six candidates. In the first round of counting, first preference votes are totted up and if one candidate has more than 50% he/she is elected. If not an Instant Runoff method is used, with votes of lower-ranked being reallocated until there’s a winner (ie until one candidate gains a majority).

On Saturday, Michael D Higgins gained 56% on the first round so no further counting was necessary. The turnout was very low at 44%. I think this was mainly down to the enormous lead for the incumbent in opinion polls in advance of the voting, but the decision to hold the election on the Friday of a Bank Holiday weekend may have contributed.

The candidate in second place, Peter Casey, had 23% of the first-preference votes. This is worryingly high for a man so clearly unsuited to the role of President. Casey cynically played the populist game, particularly with his incendiary remarks about Travellers. All five other candidates condemned his obvious racism, and the Taioseach urged people not to vote for him. That identified Casey as the anti-establishment ‘protest’ vote and his vote share surged.

Now 23% of a 44% turnout is less than 10% of the electorate, but there’s no room for complacency with gobshites like Peter Casey. In the UK the ghastly Nigel Farage was treated as a joke for decades by many establishment figures, but he nevertheless managed to attract sufficient support to cause irrevocable damage to the UK.

Anyway, that concern aside, sincere congratulations to Michael D Higgins on his reelection. He is a worthy winner and I for one am proud to have him as my President.

Presidential Election Time

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , on September 29, 2018 by telescoper

This week the deadline passed for nominations of candidates for the post of President of Ireland (Uachtarán na hÉireann). The rather peculiar nomination process has left voters with a choice of six, including the incumbent Michael D Higgins. As a relative newcomer to Ireland, even I know that the post of President doesn’t have any real power associated with it and is largely ceremonial. Surprisingly, some of the people who put themselves forward didn’t seem to understand that but, fortunately, some of the more obvious fruitcakes who put themselves forward failed to get nominated. On the other hand, three of the candidates are businessmen best known for having appeared on the Irish version of the TV show Dragon’s Den. There’s ample evidence that the products of reality TV shows do not make good presidents.

The election takes place precisely four weeks from now, on Friday 26th October 2018, and the term of the presidency is 7 years – the last such election took place in 2011.

Naturally, given the vital importance of the office of the Presidency and the need to treat the forthcoming election with the appropriate gravitas, my first thought was to look at the betting odds on Paddy Power. Here is the full SP:

  1. Michael D. Higgins (Incumbent) 1/5
  2. Sean Gallagher  5/1
  3. Gavin Duffy 14/1
  4. Joan Freeman 25/1
  5. Liadh Ni Riada  33/1
  6. Peter Casey 66/1

Obviously Michael D Higgins is a strong favourite. I think he’s carried out his duties in a very dignified and diligent way for seven years, so he will probably get my vote. Candidates 2, 3 and 6 are the Dragon’s Den people. Joan Freeman is a  journalist by trade (and an Independent member of the Seanad Éireann) and Liadh Ni Riada is the official candidate of Sinn Féin. Neither of the two biggest parties in the Dáil Éireann, Fine Gael and Fianna Fianna Fáil, nominated a candidate, preferring to back the incumbent.

It seems likely that Michael D. Higgins will win and serve another seven years, but it’s hard to be confident about anything in politics these days so we’ll just have to wait and see..