May 24, 2013
Irish President Higgins to visit Argentina
by Michael Soltys
Irish President Michael D. Higgins, now in Brazil as part of an “ABC” Latin American swing, will be startthe Argentine leg of his trip on Thursday when he meets with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (in all three countries Higgins will be meeting his fellow-presidents — Sebastián Piñera in Chile and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, as well as ex-president Luis Inàcio Lula de Silva).
Following a concert by Camerata Ireland that evening, the Irish president will be devoting much of a three-day visit to meeting the Irish diaspora in Argentina. Friday’s activities will include a lecture at the National Academy of Medicine on Irish and Argentine relations (past and present), attending a business breakfast hosted by Enterprise Ireland, honouring Admiral William Brown, the Mayo-born founder of the Argentine Navy, at a formal ceremony in Plaza Irlanda, meeting members of the Irish community and viewing a bust of Pádraig Pearse.
On Saturday the focus will be on human rights as well as community —President Higgins will visit the Space for Memory and the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights where he will pay tribute to the Cork-born human rights activist, the late Patrick Rice, as well as meeting with representatives of the Abuelas and Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. During his time in Argentina, he will also meet with the Argentine-Irish community at the Fahy Club and Hurling Club in Hurlingham. This is not the president’s first official visit to Argentina — he was here as Culture Minister in the mid-90s.
Higgins started his Latin American tour in Chile last Thursday where, apart from meeting Piñera, his activities included laying a wreath to his virtual namesake, Chilean independence hero Bernardo O’Higgins. Business-oriented seminar talks and contacts were also accompanied by touching base with the Irish community — apart from his respects for O’Higgins, he also paid tribute at the graves of late president Salvador Allende, poet Pablo Neruda and artist Victor Jara. His first visit to Chile was as an international observer for the 1988 plebiscite.
His ongoing trip in Brazil, now the sixth-largest economy in the world and a priority trade and investment market for Ireland — accompanied by a 40-strong trade mission, where he addressed a business event hosted by Enterprise Ireland in Sao Paulo but also found time to lecture on Irish studies and hold a reception for the Irish community.
Today President Higgins is in Brasilia meeting President Rousseff, while tomorrow he goes to Rio de Janeiro to promote Irish tourism.