Burma's Suu Kyi to visit Dublin as part of Europe trip

Sat, May 19, 2012, 01:00

BURMA’S OPPOSITION leader Aung San Suu Kyi is to visit Ireland next month as part of her first trip abroad in 24 years.

Ms Suu Kyi is due to travel to Norway and the UK in mid-June, but human rights campaigners here are finalising plans for a one-day visit to Ireland in between.

Art for Amnesty founder Bill Shipsey confirmed arrangements were being made to facilitate the trip. “[We wish] to confirm that planning for such a visit is currently under way, including a very special event to mark the occasion,” he said.

It is understood the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who recently received her first passport in more than two decades, will be presented with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award during her Dublin visit.

Plans are also under way to stage a benefit concert in her honour. One venue being considered for this event is the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in the Dublin docklands. It is understood that Bono, a long-standing supporter of Ms Suu Kyi, is likely to attend.

The exact dates of her travel to Europe – which would be her first trip outside Burma since 1988 – have not been confirmed, but it is understood the Ireland visit may take place on June 18th.

The European trip is being interpreted as a sign of confidence in Burma’s political reforms, and an indication that Ms Suu Kyi, who was sworn into parliament in early May, is satisfied that she would be able to return if she left the country.

During her decades-long campaign against military rule, in which she spent 15 years under house arrest, Ms Suu Kyi was free to leave Burma but she refused out of fear of not being allowed back.

Last month Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won 43 parliamentary seats, including her own, in byelections. The ballot marked the latest stage in a period of reforms that began last year when the long-ruling military junta handed over power to an elected, nominally civilian government.

The choice of Norway as her first country to visit is fitting, as Ms Suu Kyi has yet to formally accept the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said the Government looked forward to discussing with Ms Suu Kyi how Ireland can further assist the people of Burma. “Ms Suu Kyi is enormously admired in this country and I wish to pay tribute to those Irish human rights organisations and individuals who campaigned on her behalf and who helped highlight her struggle over so many years,” he said.

Shortly after her release from house arrest in late 2010, Ms Suu Kyi told Ireland’s then minister for foreign affairs Micheál Martin in a telephone conversation how much she appreciated the support she had received from Ireland.

“She was anxious to develop closer links with Ireland,” Mr Martin said at the time.

Ms Suu Kyi was awarded the freedom of Dublin city in 2000.