Palestine award for former senator

Tue, Dec 30, 2003, 00:00

A former Fianna Fáil senator, Mr Mick Lanigan, has been awarded the Order of Bethlehem 2000 by the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mr Yasser Arafat.

There was tight security yesterday afternoon around the Ramallah headquarters of Mr Arafat for the event.

Before presenting him with the award at the ceremony, which was attended by leading Palestinian politicians, Mr Arafat praised Mr Lanigan for supporting the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

"He has distinguished himself by taking a firm position on the right of the people of Palestine to self determination," Mr Arafat said. He added that Mr Lanigan had been a friend of the people of Palestine when it was not popular to do so.

Mr Lanigan was accompanied by his wife, Dorothy, and by Mr Niall Holohan, the Irish Government's official representative to the Palestinian Authority.

After the ceremony, an official lunch was held in Mr Lanigan's honour, followed by a tour of the West Bank.

Today he will visit Bethlehem, where he helped to raise funds for the only maternity hospital in the town. Afterwards he will travel to Jerusalem, where he will be guest of honour at a dinner hosted by the Palestinian Authority.

A member of Seanad Éireann from 1977 to 2000, Mr Lanigan was leader of Fianna Fáil in the Seanad from 1981 to 1987 and leader of the House from 1987 to 1989. He campaigned for an independent Palestinian state while sitting on the Oireachtas foreign affairs committee.