Higgins to begin South American tour


President Michael D Higgins will begin a visit two-week official visit to South America later this evening.

Mr Higgins, accompanied by his wife Sabina Coyne, is set to depart Dublin Airport at 5.30pm and return to Dublin on Monday October 15th.

The visit, aimed at reinforcing Ireland’s relations with the continent, includes engagements in Chile, Brazil and Argentina where he is due to meet various heads of states.

The President will begin the tour in Santiago, Chile on October 4th with a wreath-laying ceremony at the monument to Chilean Independence leader Bernardo O’Higgins followed by a meeting with the president Sebastián Piñera. Mr Piñera will host a dinner in honour of the President and Mrs Higgins later that evening.

Mr Higgins is also due to deliver various lectures and meet with the Irish community while in Chile.

Later he will visit the graves of former Chilean president Salvador Allende and poet Pablo Neruda before going to the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, where he will pay tribute to the artist Victor Jara who was killed during the 1973 coup.

He is due to be honoured as a Distinguished Guest of the City of Santiago and visit a project run under the auspices of the Columban Fathers.

It is the President’s first visit to Chile since his visit as part of an international team of observers of the 1988 plebiscite.

Following Chile, Mr Higgins, accompanied by a trade mission including over 40 Irish companies and educational institutions, will visit Brazil.

He will meet with current and former presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as well as visiting a favela in Rio de Janeiro.

Finally the official visit will take him to Argentina where highlights include a meeting with president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and members of the Irish diaspora.

In preparation for the trip Mr Higgins and his wife Sabrina spent three weeks learning Spanish at a university in Spain earlier this summer.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Joe Costello will accompany the President on the visit.

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