It is plain stupid to admire Michael D. Higgins’ speech on university education* by putting it along with the man on the mantelpiece. This is the first in a series of speeches that will punctuate his presidency and already the danger of wasting his election, his time and our opportunity is all too obvious.
Let’s look at the aftermath of the speech. It attracted admiration but mostly silence. The silence was encouraging. There was neither explicit disagreement nor was there – and this is very, very important – any argument that MDH had strayed beyond the constitutional limits of the presidency.
And yet, . . ! And yet, this speech set down a fundamentally different approach to higher education than the one we’ve been following. So, is it to be the mantelpiece and periodic dusting until it’s safe to bin the work or is there another approach? I think there is and I think that socialists and other progressives had better get their thinking caps on because MDH will deliver presidential addresses for just seven short years and already it is clear that their potential may be wasted.
The Labour Party has one of its own in the Áras and another one of its own in charge of Marlborough Street. The Labour Minister for Education holds one key to admitting the thinking of the Labour President to official policy and strategy. Ruairi Quinn can instruct the HEA to examine the President’s speech, compare it to current HEA policy/strategy and make recommendations as to what needs to be done to change direction towards achieving the prospect described in the President’s speech.
*Here’s the speech: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/0125/breaking67.html?via=rel