King and queen of Lesotho arrive for three-day visit

Mon, May 21, 2012, 01:00

KING LETSIE III of Lesotho arrived in Ireland yesterday for a three-day official visit during which he will discuss efforts to develop closer trade links between the two countries.

The tiny southern African country is home to Ireland’s longest-running bilateral aid programme which was established in 1975.

This year, the total Irish aid budget for Lesotho is €8.9 million.

During his visit, the king, who is accompanied by his wife Queen ’Masenate Mohato Seeiso, will meet President Michael D Higgins, members of the Government, and non-governmental organisations and business representatives.

Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello is due to meet King Letsie III this afternoon to discuss Ireland’s development programme in Lesotho as well as efforts to move the bilateral relationship beyond aid to centre more on trade.

Ireland’s development partnership with Lesotho includes a major focus on improving access to education and treatment for HIV and Aids.

“Ireland and Lesotho have built strong connections over the last century,” Mr Costello said. “I am proud of the contribution made there by our missionaries, development workers and business people.

“I am determined to maintain our commitment to development co-operation, but also to build our economic and trade links.

“Ireland recognises the great potential of Lesotho, where the annual economic growth rate is now between 5 per cent and 6 per cent.”

Following their arrival in Cork yesterday morning, the royal couple travelled to Kildare where they toured the Newbridge Silverware factory and museum.

The king and queen are also due to visit Portmarnock Community School in Dublin and tour the headquarters of Country Crest agribusiness and Eirgrid in Dublin.

Their visit will conclude tomorrow with a visit to the Guinness Storehouse.

Lesotho is currently ranked at 160 out of 187 countries on the United Nations human development index.

More than half of the population live below the national income poverty line.