President Higgins to meet New Zealand’s PM-elect Jacinda Ardern
President is first head of state to meet Ardern, leader of New Zealand’s Labour Party
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern entered parliament in 2008 at the age of 28 and took over the leadership of her party in July. Photograph: Mark Coote/Bloomberg
President Michael D Higgins will become the first head of state to meet New Zealand’s new prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday when he visits the country on a State visit.
Mr Higgins flew to New Zealand from Brisbane on Monday evening (local time) after completing his 19-day State visit to Australia. He will spend six days in the country on the eighth State visit of his six-year presidency.
The President, a former Labour TD, will meet Ms Ardern, the New Zealand Labour Party leader, at a state dinner in their honour on Tuesday followed by a meeting at the New Zealand parliament on Wednesday.
Ms Ardern, who at 37 will be the country’s youngest prime minister since 1856, will be the third woman to lead a government after winning the support of the nationalist New Zealand First party last week.
Even though her party came second in the country’s recent elections, no party was able to secure a majority, leading the nationalist party to support Ms Ardern with backing from the Green Party.
Her appointment will cap a meteoric rise to power. Ms Ardern, a former policy adviser to Tony Blair, entered parliament in 2008 at the age of 28 and took over the leadership of her party in July.
The coalition is likely to shift economic policy towards delivering public services, toughening immigration laws and foreign ownership rules.
Mr Higgins spoke throughout his Australia visit about the plight of international migrants. He described the Irish as being a “migratory” people that bestowed a “consciousness in relation to migrants’ rights”.
During his time in New Zealand Mr Higgins will visit Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland, and meet Maori elders as well as business representatives, academics, artists and sports bodies.
He will also meet the country’s governor general Dame Patsy Reddy, who has Irish ancestors, and other political leaders along with members of the Irish communities living across New Zealand.
There are an estimated 13,000 Irish-born citizens in New Zealand. Some 18 per cent claim Irish ancestry.
At his final event in Australia, Mr Higgins met members of the Irish community in Brisbane, the seventh stop on the visit that started in Perth in Western Australia on October 5th. He will return to Ireland at the end of the month.