Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland (takes office on Nov 11, 2011)
Michael D was born into humble circumstances in Limerick, and raised in Clare by a family who paid a huge price during the tumultuous events of the foundation of the state. After years spent as a clerk with the ESB, Michael D became the first in his family to go to university. There he found the language and the ideas to articulate the deep sense of social justice and hunger for equality that he had developed as a young man. This powerful symmetry – between the instincts of the heart and the ideas of the head – has been a hallmark of Michael D’s public life.
As a young academic, Michael D strove to ensure that people of a similar background to himself had the opportunity to access education and travelled, with colleagues, to towns and villages throughout the west of Ireland providing outreach courses. The social exclusion, emigration and poverty that he experienced and witnessed led Michael D to more direct political involvement, where he could argue and advocate for real change, both social and economic.
Dedicated to serving the people, Michael D. has been elected to Galway City and County Council, Seanad Éireann and Dáil Éireann. He has served with distinction as Mayor of Galway, President of the European Council of Culture Ministers and as one of the country’s most innovative and visionary Cabinet Ministers.
As our first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Michael D. made brave decisions which continue to benefit Ireland. His achievements include establishing TG4, reinvigorating the Irish film industry, the ending of the Section 31 censorship regime, investment in new public museums, such as Collins Barracks and the Chester Beatty Library, the setting up of a network of local arts venues and theatres right across Ireland and the revitalisation of our waterways, including reconnection of the Royal and Grand Canals. In his ambitions for film, music and culture in all its forms, Michael D. recognised creativity as an integral part of our lives which can play a vital role in our social and economic development.
Michael D. has been to the forefront of campaigns for progressive change on equal pay for women, access to contraception, divorce, the rights of people with disabilities and many other important issues. He often argued for these reforms in the face of a conservative consensus, and has often paid a high electoral price for standing up bravely for what he believes.
He has been a consistent voice for equality, the elimination of poverty and a ‘citizenship floor’ of basic rights and participation below which no citizen should fall. A feminist, Michael D, often together with his wife Sabina, has in particular fought for women’s rights in Ireland and abroad.
Internationally, Michael D. has campaigned for justice and peace and supported humanitarian projects in countries including Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cambodia, Iraq, Somalia and Chile. He was awarded the first Seán McBride International Peace Prize by the Zurich-based International Peace Bureau in recognition of his international human rights work.
A renowned author, poet and speaker, Michael D. has a deep commitment to and connection with the Irish language. He also has a lifelong passion for sport and is a strong supporter of gaelic football and hurling as well as being President of Galway United FC.
Enda Kenny, Prime Minister of Ireland (since Mar 9, 2011)
Enda Kenny was elected as Taoiseach on March 9th 2011
He was elected Leader of Fine Gael in June 2002. Since then, he has rebuilt the party. Under his leadership Fine Gael has gained seats in every single location.
In the general election in 2011 Fine Gael won 76 seats, becoming the largest party in the Dáil.
In the local elections in 2009 Fine Gael won 340 seats, becoming the largest party at local level for the first time in history.
Enda has represented the people of Mayo as a Fine Gael member of Dáil Éireann since 1975.
He served as Minister for Tourism and Trade from 1994 – 1997, overseeing an unprecedented growth in tourism business and Ireland’s trade position internationally.
He was Minister for State at the Department of Education, Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Western Development, Youth Affairs and Sport.
Some other facts on Enda
- Enda is married to Fionnuala. They have 3 teenage children, Aoibhinn, Ferdia and Naoise.
- He enjoys hillwalking, cycling, golf, has climbed Croagh Patrick over 100 times and Kilimanjaro for charity.
- He played for, managed and coached his local team Islandeady GAA for many years to County Championship victories.
- He looks forward to and enjoys annual family holidays in Kerry.
- He reads a lot, including Irish and military history.
- He is a fluent Irish speaker.
- He is a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen.
- His late father Henry Kenny won All Ireland Football honours with Mayo in 1936 and his father in law with Kerry in 1953.
Mary McAleese, Former President of Ireland
On 11th November, 1997, Mary McAleese was inaugurated as the eighth President of Ireland. Mary McAleese was re-elected on Friday 1st October 2004 being the only validly-nominated candidate. She is a barrister and former Professor of Law. Born on June 27th 1951 in Belfast, she is the first President to come from Northern Ireland. She is married, since 1976, to Dr. Martin McAleese, an accountant and dentist. They have three children, Emma, born 1982 and twins Justin and SaraMai, born 1985.
The eldest of nine children, President McAleese grew up in Northern Ireland through the violent times that have come to be known as ‘The Troubles’. Her family was one of many adversely affected by the conflict. She graduated in Law from the Queen’s University of Belfast in 1973 and was called to the Northern Ireland Bar in 1974. In 1975, she was appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College Dublin and in 1987, she returned to her Alma Mater, Queen’s, to become Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. In 1994, she became the first female Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Queen’s University of Belfast.
President McAleese is an experienced broadcaster, having worked as a current affairs journalist and presenter in radio and television with Radio Telefís Éireann. She has a longstanding interest in many issues concerned with justice, equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism and reconciliation. The theme of her Presidency is ‘Building Bridges’
Among the other appointments she has held are;
Director of Channel 4 Television.
Director, Northern Ireland Electricity
Delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Trade and Investment in Ireland and to the follow up Pittsburg Conference in 1996.
Member of the Catholic Church delegation in 1996 to the North Commission on Contentious Parades.
Member of the Catholic Church Episcopal Delegation to the New Ireland Forum in 1984.
Founder member of the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas.