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20th Jun 2023

President Higgins apologises to professor for ‘throwaway remark’

Simon Kelly

The president has been criticised for his comments in a recent interview.

President Michael D Higgins has apologised to Professor Louise Richardson for a “throwaway remark” he made in a newspaper interview last weekend.

In the interview with the Sunday Business Post, the president referred to the chair of the Consultative Forum on International Security Policy, Professor Richardson, as someone “with a very large DBE – Dame of the British Empire” next to her name.

He also criticised the rest of the forum line-up, saying it was filled with “the admirals, the generals, the air force, the rest of it” and warned that Ireland was drifting away from “positive neutrality.”

Michael D Higgins

President Higgins apologises to professor for ‘throwaway remark’.

In a statement released on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the president said:

“We are happy to clarify that the president made the comment to which you refer, over the course of a long interview, while he was looking at a copy of the programme for the forum and was referring casually to the fact that almost every reference to Professor Richardson in the programme was in a bold typeface with, however, DBE in capital letters after her name.

“Indeed, the President’s exact words were ‘a very large letter DBE’. The President intended no offence by such a casual remark. He apologises for any offence which he may have inadvertently caused to Professor Richardson by what was a throwaway remark.”

The statement continued: “As a political scientist and sociologist the President is familiar with Professor Richardson’s work.

“He has too, with others, an appreciation for the initiatives for which Professor Richardson was awarded her DBE, in attracting more undergraduates from non-traditional or deprived backgrounds to Oxford University.”

Professor Richardson was recognised in the UK’s 2022 birthday honours for services to higher education.

In January 2016, she became the first woman Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. She has received praise for her leadership in the role during the successful development of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The security policy forum will feature NGOs, civil servants, academics and journalists and, according to, will focus on a wide range of issues.

These include Ireland’s efforts to protect the rules-based international order through peacekeeping and crisis management, disarmament and non-proliferation, international humanitarian law, and conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

The forum will also allow for a discussion on Ireland’s policy of military neutrality.

The forum will be held in Cork on June 22, Galway on June 23 and Dublin on June 25 and 27.

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