Ex-president Lula da Silva to visit Ireland in 2013 at Higgins's invitation


Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is to visit Ireland next year at the invitation of President Higgins.

It will be the first trip to Ireland by the former metal worker who became Brazil’s first ever left-wing president and whose policies helped lift millions out of poverty while driving Brazil towards its current ranking as the world’s sixth largest economy.

An influential figure of Latin America’s left, Mr da Silva will he here early next summer. He and President Higgins held private talks in São Paulo lasting an hour, during which they discussed the crisis in Europe and the former Brazilian president’s social policies.

At a speech in Brazil’s leading university, President Higgins said that “an almost reverential approach to wealth for its own sake” had created a version of Irish society that was “destructive at home and it damaged our reputation abroad”.

After his speech, the president held a private meeting with a group of Irish missionaries. Among them was Clifton priest Leo Dolan, who works with landless peasants in the Amazon. Fr Dolan gave the president a collection of testimonies detailing everyday violence suffered by community activists seeking to defend peasants. Some 29 people were murdered last year in land disputes. Nearly all those killed were landless peasants in conflict with large landlords.