The curious start to a rugby match: A tale of two anthems

March 2, 2015

The Ireland team celebrate winning the RBS 6 Nations Championship in the dressing room 15/3/2014

On March 1st, 2015, something strange happened at the start of a Six Nations International rugby match between Ireland and England. It was something I have never experienced before, although I must have watched several hundred such occasions since my schooldays

My story has some of the elements of a Sherlock Holmes puzzle, and I’ve described it in that spirit. Imagine, if you will, the following, as recounted in a message sent to the great detective.

Dear Mr Holmes,

I approach on behalf of a personage who holds high office in the land who has requested my help. Forgive me for disturbing you on a matter which is baffling to me. I can only hope that through the brilliance of your intellect that progress might be possible. Your success in the case of the missing Cambridge three-quarter encourages me that you will be prepared to help in this instance too.

I refer to an event that took place before the start of last Sunday’s rugby match. You will recall it was played in Dublin between the two undefeated teams in the annual Six Nations tournament. My state of agitation comes from an incident that occurred as I was watching the build-up to the match from the comfort of my sitting room, courtesy of the BBC’s televisual reporting

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Is Michael D Higgins the ultimate charismatic non-charismatic?

April 8, 2014

‘Michael D’ defies contemporary leadership stereotypes. A case could be made for saying that this man is the ultimate charismatic non-charismatic

The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins makes an historic state visit to England [April 8th, 2014]. The trip is redolent with symbolism, as was The Queen’s visit to Ireland three years ago.

According to popular theory, a leader in the public eye has to pass the celebrity test of physical attractiveness. Absence of media glamour is a bar to a successful political career. In the UK, Ed Milliband suffers from repeated media references to his lack of personal attractiveness predicating his non-electability as the country’s next Prime Minister. Dr Higgins has been lampooned for his unimpressive physical appearance and stature.

The Irish are different

The Irish appointed a different kind of leader as their President. The two previous incumbents were Mary Robinson followed by Mary McAleese. Lucky the land to have found such impressive heads of state.

Then there was ‘Michael D’

‘Michael D’ was appointed in what seemed another burst of creative contrarianism by the Irish electorate. At the time, I got the election seriously wrong. I noted that two charismatic candidates were spicing up the election campaign. Both dropped out of view and eventually did not run. Instead a veteran politician and scholarly academic was elected.

An important ingredient of charisma

The Irish voters listened to what Michael had to say, and voted him in. This week he showed why to an international audience. He is an impressive and empathic communicator. In advance of his State visit to England he was asked whether it was time to put aside the lingering scars in Ireland of a relationship of often bloody disputes. He replied in a moving and convincing way. No, he replied, he had no right to demand such a thing of his people although he hoped he could help movement forward toward a better future.

And that was the moment I understood a little more about his charisma.

Context

Much of this post will be understood differently from the perspectives of readers familiar with the historical and complex relationship between England and Ireland. [For example, the symbolism of the Queen’s visit to Ireland in 2011, and of this return visit] Some of the modern history is touched upon in the links to the post, which mainly focuses on the surprising nature of the charisma of the Irish President.


Ireland elects Michael D Higgins ‘to rock in the Dáil’

October 29, 2011

Ireland has elected veteran Labour politican Michael D Higgins as its President. The Saw Doctors provided an unusual note in an unusual campaign.

‘Michael D Michael D, up on his bikele D, Michael D Michael D rocks in the Dáil’ [Dáil rhymes with boil: Ed, LWD]

You can read a more prosaic account of the campaign and its swings in fortune in the Scotsman’s report [19 Oct 2011]:

A former lecturer in sociology and politics at University College Galway, Mr Higgins benefited from his standing as one of Ireland’s most liked and instantly recognisable politicians. During an often bad-tempered campaign, Higgins stayed above the fray and his record on human rights, in particular, won plenty of admirers. The next president is also one of Ireland’s strongest critics of US foreign policy.

Within hours of his election his moving acceptance speech belayed the suggestion that ‘Michael D.’ would be merely a figurehead, lacking in ideas and charisma. As the link indicates, his opposition to the ‘years of the Celtic tiger’ even won the Labour politician the approval of the English Daily Mail.

To go more deeply

The swings in the campaign are also covered in the post-election review from the BBC. Leaders we deserve [Sept 19th 2011] has also examined how charismatic candidates were adding spice to the campaign.