Higgins to visit Irish in London


PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins, who was an emigrant to Britain during the 1960s, will visit Irish community and cultural groups in London late next month in his first official overseas visit, it is understood.

Final arrangements are still being made for the trip, but it is believed that the centrepiece will be a visit to the Irish Cultural Centre, which this week received news that the Government is to support its bid to buy its Hammersmith home with £550,000 (€660,000).

During his campaign, Mr Higgins expressed strong support for the efforts by the centre to lobby for Government money to help buy the building, brought on by the Conservative-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s decision to sell off council-owned property.

So far in his presidency, Mr Higgins has spoken frequently about emigration, urging young people who choose to leave Ireland for some years to regard it as a positive experience that should enrich their lives, even after they return.

Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed reports from New York that he will visit there in May to be the guest of honour at the annual American Ireland Fund dinner held in New York which raises millions for worthy Irish charities.

Mr Higgins’s visit to the Irish Cultural Centre will be seen as a major boost. It hopes, once planning is received, to demolish the existing building and, in co-operation with the Shepherd’s Bush Housing Association, to build a new one, including social housing.

“It is anticipated that this project would take circa 18 months to complete.  During this period the centre’s services will continue to be delivered locally,” said the centre.