President says debt comments were ‘proper, right and constitutional’

Higgins was addressing debate he described as ‘very important’

President Michael D Higgins has defended comments he made during an interview with the Financial Times which were critical of decisions taken by European leaders and the European Central Bank.

Speaking to journalists this morning, Mr Higgins justified his comments, saying they were in line with the oath he took on entering office.

"Governments do what governments do, and I as President of Ireland do what my oath asks me to do," he said.

“What I was really doing in Strasbourg was addressing a debate that I believed to be very important on the future of the union at a time of crisis,” Mr Higgins said.


He said he had made similar comments in the past and had spoken about “the necessity to have the debate and for public intellectuals to participate” in it.

He said: “What I was looking at was the importance of restoring the spirit that was there in the founding treaties.”

“There is no difficulty at all as far as I am concerned about what I am doing in terms of it being both positive and being clearly within what I think is both proper and right and constitutional,” he said.

Mr Higgins added: "I do think nobody would thank any of us for looking on a very serious situation in Europe, be it unemployment or poverty, or institutional inflexibility or whatever, and to not put our thruppence into the debate."

In the interview in yesterday’s edition of The Financial Times newspaper, Mr Higgins was critical of EU leaders and the European Central Bank (ECB).

He took issue with the failure of EU leaders to fulfil their pledge almost one year ago to break the link between bank and sovereign debt.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore subsequently said the president's remarks were "helpful" to the Government in the debate on the euro zone.