- 18 Apr 21
The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins hits a major landmark today with his 80th birthday. Dozens of musicians have shared their message of goodwill with Hot Press – which we will publish through the day. And so, without further ado, here’s to the President!
The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins is celebrating his 80th birthday today. Sometimes it is hard to believe just how quickly the clock ticks, and the days pass, turning into months and – suddenly it seems – years. It is a feeling that we have all felt acutely over the past 13 months and more, as the Coronavirus pandemic – and the associated lockdowns – extended from weeks to seasons to an entire year.
It has been a tragic time for many, with loved ones lost, and hopes and dreams dashed. And at the heart of it all is a terrible sense of the loss of direct contact with people we love – so that we are denied the opportunity to hold and hug our dearest friends, and family members alike or to get together in moments of celebration. In a different time, there might have been a garden gathering in Áras an Úachtaráin day, to mark the President’s birthday, and to share the moment with the man himself and with his wonderful wife and partner Sabina. And there is no one better at sharing a comradely embrace than Michael D.
Those moments of shared camaraderie and solidarity are not possible right now, or certainly not in the physical sense. But it is still vital for us to express our love and affection – and support – for one another, and to send those feelings and emotions spinning across the virtual world, hopefully to land with one, and among the many.
I know that, within the music community, today, there will be a feeling of huge warmth and pride in President Michael D. Higgins – in what he has done, what he has achieved, and what he stands for, and points us towards. During the week, we published an interview done with the President back in 1983 (conducted for us at the time by John Waters). It is an astonishing read now, as we look back almost 40 years and see just how prescient the then-Senator Michael D. Higgins was. So many of the themes that were discussed, in marvellous detail, remain of central importance – in relation to social justice, of course, but also climate, and – on a particularly prophetic note – the nature of work and what we call ‘careers’ in the world of the then-future.
Shortly afterwards, we invited Michael D. Higgins to write for Hot Press and over a period of ten years, he delivered what was a brilliant – and hugely influential – column for the magazine. It was during this time that his reputation first grew – eventually to legendary status – among Ireland’s musicians and bands, with the wonderful Tuam outfit, The Saw Doctors, celebrating the marvellous fact of Michael D "rocking in the Dáil." During that decade, we shared some wonderful adventures, and the admiration of everyone in the Hot Press camp for both Michael D. the man, and Michael D. the politician, grew – and grew.
When he became Minister for Arts, Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, in the Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition government, formed in January 1993, we agreed that it was better to put the column on hold and over the next four and a half years, he did enough to transform a huge number of aspects of cultural life in Ireland, and to improve the lot of very many people involved in the arts.
Had one suggested than that Michael D. Higgins would in the not too distant future become the President of Ireland, many people might have scoffed – as indeed the one-time leader of the now defunct Progressive Democrats, Dessie O’Malley did, when he suggested that our man would “go mad” when he was in office as Minister for the Arts. Not so, however, those who knew him better. Michael D. was aware, more acutely than almost anyone else, of what might be achieved, in and through, the office of the President of Ireland. And so it came to pass in the Presidential election of 2011.
In the meantime, Mary Robinson had taken the office forward, and Mary McAleese too. But it is fair to say that, as President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins has represented this country in a singularly energetic and impressive way on absolutely every level and platform available to him.
He has also honoured the contribution of Irish artists and musicians, and brought a true sense of the vital importance of the arts and culture to the foreground in Irish life. He has demonstrated that it is possible at once to retain your radicalism in high office and to be unapologetically and resolutely yourself: true to the principles with which you started out, but also agile, self-aware, intelligent and open enough to take on board the urgencies of the present – and the new challenges of the future. He has been – and remains – the outstanding Irish politician of his generation and an extraordinarily successful Head of State.
It has been a marvellous privilege for me, and for my partner Máirín Sheehy, and for everyone in the Stokes clan, and for the Hot Press massive back them, and now, to have known, worked, shared laughter and good cheer – and all of the other deep human emotions – with the man who is Ireland's greatest ever President.
Thank you, Mr. President.
And it is a marvellous privilege today, also, for all of us in Hot Press to share with you just some of the kind, thoughtful, wonderfully appreciative and celebratory sentiments – and the real and enduring love – being expressed for you, by artists and musicians across the country, on this your 80th birthday.
May this be a wonderful day for you, for Sabina, for your family, and for your team in the Áras.
And may it also be the first – for us all – on the road back to where that great sense of ambition, and hunger for justice, which you have shared with the people of Ireland all of your life, and with which you embraced the role of President, can be fully realised and expressed, both here at home and across the globe again, in a fully recovered, post-Covid era.
With much love.
– Niall Stokes
Editor, Hot Press
Here they come – the first complement of messages for The President. Happy birthday, President Michael D. Higgins.
You were a voice in the wilderness supporting all artists back in the early days.
Your love, understanding and passion particularly for all things Irish in the arts never diminished throughout your life.
This will never be forgotten.
Míle Buíchos agus Lá Breithe Shona Dhuit,
– Mary Black
Who would have thought in 1989 that, for the next 30 years, Áras an Uachtaráin would be occupied by three consecutively radical people. Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese, and most of all, Michael D. Higgins.
Every few years, people argue the ‘value’ and cost of the presidency; because the president has no ‘executive’ power.
Our President Higgins has so much power.
The power of words.
The power of kindness and decency.
The power of music, and song.
The power of equality and justice.
And yes, the power of fun.
He has been, and always will be, loved.
Happy Birthday President Higgins.
May you and yours be safe and well.
Oh, and thank you.
Dear Michael D,
We are so privileged to have you as our President. You have been such a staunch supporter of the Arts in Ireland, indeed a gifted artist yourself throughout your life. You understand us and we value that. I’d like to wish you the happiest of times on your 80th birthday!
With best wishes to you and Sabina.
– Paul Brady.
Lá breithe shona duit a Uachtaráin. Tá muid uilig iontach bródúil asat. Sonas séan agus sláinte.
To President Michael D. Higgins: wishing you a Happy Birthday and thanking you for always accepting and encouraging us creatives here in Ireland.
– Maimouna (Celaviedmai)
I feel blessed to have met Michael in my grannies when I was about 16 .He was looking for people to join Labour Youth...
Together we were all involved in a project to re-home Chilean refugees in 1975.
We, like many others in Galway, shared our home with a Chilean family in our flat at Rahoon until they got a flat of their own.
Michael D was honoured by the Chilean Government for his work on this and many other projects.
When Michael was first elected as a TD for Galway, and had the few bob, he often stayed with us in Skerries. We were poor starving students. He often filled up the car with petrol & and bought bales of briquettes for us !
When he returned from Nicaragua in the 80s, he brought me back a small carving of a mother and child which I will always treasure...
I've never felt comfortable voting for anyone as a TD since I Ieft Galway, and he was no longer represented me.
I'm so proud to have known him then & still admire and respect him now.
A wonderful Man
Happy Birthday Michael
President Higgins, thanks so much for all you have done for the country over the last few decades, I can't wait to see what you have planned for the next one.
Many happy returns on your 80th birthday, President Higgins. We hope you have a great day filled with music and celebration!
– Orláith, Mollie & Mamie
A poet, president, empath, journalist, broadcaster, champion of the arts, champion of the bejewelled ancient language of Eire, Gaeilge, champion of the oppressed around the world whether it be fashionable to take that stance in the west or not. Here he stands, on the shoulders of brave rebels who were willing to die to try and make Ireland a fairer island. Some man for one man, protecting, nurturing and defending sacred entities, he has travelled 80 times around a burning star, flying through time and space on a blue jewel. As John Spillane once sung, well done.
Maith thú Michael, your people before you are fierce proud i reckon, mile buíochas for the great example, and many happy returns a chara,
CHRISTY DIGNAM (Aslan)
Having performed in the Aras for President Micheal D Higgins, I personally know how much this great man appreciates Irish music and puts his whole heart into supporting and promoting it. So on this, your special day, I want to wish you a very happy 80th Birthday from all in ASLAN
– Christy Dignam
BOB & THE GELDOFS
“With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come."
A Uachtaráin dhílis.
A Happy Day and long life to you.
As Minister for Arts and Culture, you played a critical role in helping give independent voice to Irish songwriters and composers, in the setting up of our national body – IMRO.
As our President you have continued to steadfastly give us voice as a people.
Thank you…you raise all of us…up!
Buíochas ‘s beannachtaí,
– Brendan Graham
Dear President Higgins,
Thanks for all your heartfelt encouragement and support for the arts. Thanks for the deep humanity of your political views, which we need now more than ever. Wishing you many more years of inspired leadership.
Dear President Michael D,
It’s a great pleasure for me to be able to offer you my very best wishes and congratulations on reaching your 80th birthday. You’re a little more than a year ahead of me!
Your honesty and your concern for the ‘plain people of Ireland’ shines through every time you make a public appearance and may this ever be.
Please keep going!
With love and respect,
– Andy Irvine
Lá breithe sona duit, a Uachtaráin. Is mór an spreagadh a thugann tú dúinn. Go maire tú an céad!
– Lisa Lambe
Happy 80th, President Higgins! It's amazing and reassuring to have a poet and a bona fide champion of arts and culture in the Áras – particularly given the difficulties our industry and the nation at large have faced in the past year. I'm a big fan of your new dog Misneach, give him a pet from me – and have a lovely day!
– Jake Hurley (Local Boy)
Dear Michael D. Higgins,
I wanted to wish you the happiest of days on your 80th birthday. Your strong words and profound poetry resonate with me as a young man in this country. I hope to one day be a beacon for Ireland as you are today. Not just someone to lead, but someone to look up to. I thank you President Higgins.
SHANE MacGOWAN & VICTORIA CLARKE
God bless you on your great birthday, Michael D Higgins, poet, statesman, humanitarian, orator, leader, rebel, friend. May inspiration be your constant companion, may you be welcomed and wanted wherever you wander, may you be warmed by the sun and cooled by gentle breezes, may you be strengthened by all of your challenges, may you always hear a song in your heart, may you be delighted by all that you have accomplished and inspired by all that you experience, may your life be long and glorious and more magnificent than even you can imagine.
– Shane and Victoria
I’m writing this to send you all my best wishes on your Birthday.
We are so proud to have you as our President.
Thank you for all your many years of hard work – and all the passion you put into your day-to-day, especially the arts.
Words can’t describe how appreciative we are to have you.
Looking forward to reading your new book .
All the best wishes,
– Lucy McWilliams .
MAIRÉAD NÍ MHAONAIGH (ALTAN)
A Uachtaráin, Dhíl,
Guím gach beannacht ort ar an lá speisíalta seo.
Is mór an onóir dúinne anseo in Éirinn, tusa a bheith mar Uachtarán againn.
Tógann tú ár misneach le do chíneáltais, do intleacht agus do chuid uaisleacht.
Is dea-shampla don Domhan uile thù mar a bá chóir ceannaireacht a dhéanamh ar do shliocht.
Go maire tú go deo.
Le Gach Dea-Bheannacht
– Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Ceoltóir
Nil mo chuid gaeilge comh maith agus a bhiodh se ach breithla sona duit.
Ps - I love your dog!
Have a fantastic birthday!
DAVID ROONEY (ECHOTAL)
Having badgered editor Niall Stokes for months I finally got my first gig illustrating for Hot Press at the age of 23. Not only that my first task was to illustrate Michael D’s often incendiary and always illuminating column. I’ve often said that an education started in art college continued apace through Hot Press. I’ve great memories of a Michael D spitting fire as he recounted events from his recent trips to El Salvador in a packed corner of The International Bar, a force of righteous indignation delivered with a poet’s panache. The Presidential office has reflected us at our best in recent decades, Michael D stands tall in great company.
Fond birthday wishes.
– David Rooney
Dear Michael D,
We wish you peace and joy on your 80th birthday - Peace in the knowledge of a life well lived, and joy in its celebration.
Bain taitneamh as an lá,
John and Mary Sheahan.
MARY STOKES & BRIAN PALM
My partner Brian Palm and I would like to extend to you our warmest wishes and best regards on this, the occasion of your 80th Birthday. As an Irish woman, I am immensely proud of your remarkable Presidency of Ireland.
Brian and I consider ourselves exceptionally fortunate to have known you for so many years; from the wild early days of The Mary Stokes Band when we shared nights of songs and poetry in the genteel surroundings of the United Arts Club, to quaffing pints in O’Neill’s and those times when we performed at political functions and events for numerous humanitarian causes. The touchstone of our shared commitment to humanity has always been a great source of pride for us. Shining through our meetings at celebrations, or shared solemn occasions, is the tangible evidence of your personal sense of the significance of community. Having you in attendance at my mother Peggy’s funeral was a remarkable honour for my family that we so greatly appreciated.
We feel exceptionally fortunate to have a President who has unfailingly recognised the value of the Arts in society, and who has consistently championed Irish art, music and culture on the global stage. Brian and I are especially proud that one of his paintings is in your personal collection.
I have been moved and heartened by your capacity to deliver a vision of an inclusive, continuously evolving and distinct Ireland. Celebrating Irish successes, your comments have eloquently expressed and prioritised our shared humanity. You have powerfully reinforced our true Irish qualities and potential. We are privileged to know you, Michael; we are proud of our unique Irish President particularly in this challenging time of global difficulty. And we wish Uachtarán na h’Éireann, Michael D. Higgins, a wonderful 80th Birthday.
– Mary Stokes and Brian Palm.
THE ZEN ARCADE
Dear Michael D. Higgins,
A very happy birthday to you, our head of state.
You were a great ally and constant source of support for us during our time in The Strypes and we expect the exact same treatment in our new musical venture.
Embracing musical independence has seen us make extensive use of all the arts grants and initiatives (local and national) that are available to us and what a help they’ve been.
That network of support however wouldn’t be there for artists and musicians like ourselves if it wasn’t for the the decades of tireless work you devoted to ensuring the creative endeavours of this nation are given the space, time and facilities to be created.
The potential of the artists in this country (especially us) is immeasurable and we’re all so lucky and grateful to have a passionate facilitator like yourself.
– Pete, Evan, Ross, Becky and Sam.
– There's much more to come, from Johnny Fean (Horslips), Gavin Friday, Steve Wall (The Stunning/ The Walls), Eleanor McEvoy, Conor O’Brien, Declan O’Rourke, Gemma Hayes, Ruth Anne Cunningham, Bronagh Gallagher, Frances Black, Kila – and far too many to list here! Stay tuned to hotpress.com, and follow us on social media (Facebook / Twitter / Instagram etc).