Who is our latest Freeman? - President Higgins’ life in brief

Jeddy Walsh

Jeddy Walsh

Michael Daniel Higgins was born on 18th April, 1941, in County Limerick. From the age of five he went to live with his uncle and aunt in County Clare. Educated at Ballycar National School, Co. Clare; St. Flannan’s, Ennis; University College Galway; Indiana University; and Manchester University. Also served as President of UCG Students’ Union.

President Higgins holds a graduate degree in sociology. In his academic career, he was a lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Sociology at UCG and was a Visiting Professor at Southern Illinois University, USA. Resigned from the world of academia to concentrate fully on a political career.

He is a fluent speaker of both Irish and English.

Married to Sabina Coyne, an actress They have four children: Alice Mary, John and Michael Jnr (twins), and Daniel.

He originally joined Fianna Fáil while in UCG but soon switched to the Labour Party. Higgins was appointed in 1973 to the 13th Seanad Éireann by Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. He was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1981 as a Labour Party TD. Served as Mayor of Galway twice, 1982-1983 and 1991-1992.

Served continuously in the Dáil from 1987 to 2011 general.

In 1993 he became Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. During his period as Minister he scrapped the controversial Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, re-established the Irish Film Board and set in motion the Irish language television station, Teilifís na Gaeilge (now TG4).

He has campaigned tirelessly for human rights and written of conflict in many parts of the world, including Nicaragua, Chile, Cambodia, El Salvador, Iraq and Somalia. In recognition of his work for peace and justice worldwide, he became the first recipient of the Seán MacBride Peace Prize of the International Peace Bureau in Helsinki in 1992.

As well as having a successful political career President Higgins has also had a career as a poet, author and broadcaster.

Over a long career Michael D. Higgins has had poems published in a number of periodicals, as well as publishing three collections of his poetry, including, The Betrayal (1990), The Season of Fire (2004) and An Arid Season (2004).

On 29 October 2011, two days after the election was held, Higgins was declared the ninth President with a total of 1,007,104 votes, the most any Irish politician has ever received in an election.

He is the first President to have served in both Houses of the Oireachtas having been a member of the Dáil and Seanad.

Higgins was inaugurated as President at Dublin Castle on 11 November 2011.

On 1st June, 2012, he became the 22nd Freeman of Clonmel just seven months since his inauguration. The ceremony to honour President Higgins, the first Labour Party member to attain the office, was held in very chamber the Labour Party in Ireland was founded 100 years ago. Labour Party Mayor of Clonmel, Darren Ryan, bestowed the honour of behalf of the people of the town.