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Wednesday 18 October 2017

Aung San Suu Kyi: My visit to Dublin is one of the most unforgettable days of my life

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is flanked by Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore (right) and Bono as she receives flowers from Sophia Kelly at Dublin Airport. Photo: PA
Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is flanked by Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore (right) and Bono as she receives flowers from Sophia Kelly at Dublin Airport. Photo: PA
President Michael D. Higgins (R) gestures as he speaks with Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a visit to the official residence of the Irish President in Dublin. Photo: PA
Roger Moore and his wife Khristina.
Suu Kyi had greeted wellwishers on her arrival at the theatre.
Bob Geldof and his partner Jeanne Marine at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre.
Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi receives Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award from U2 singer Bono and Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International.
U2 frontman Bono presented Ms Suu Kyi, who turns 67 today, with Amnesty International's prestigious Ambassador of Conscience Award.
Melanie Verwoerd and actress Jolie Richardson at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre.
Lonee Cher, his father Ler Iah Hay and Kyi Shwe.

Lyndsey Telford and Sarah Stack

BURMA’S pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said her visit to Ireland will be one of the most unforgettable days of her life.

As thousands of supporters sang Happy Birthday to the former political prisoner at Dublin's Grand Canal Square, Ms Suu Kyi finally received a Freedom of the City - 12 years after being given the accolade.



U2 frontman Bono also presented Ms Suu Kyi, who turns 67 today, with Amnesty International's prestigious Ambassador of Conscience Award during a star-studded concert in her honour.



"This will be one of the unforgettable days of my life," said Ms Suu Kyi told supporters.



"I've been welcomed to Ireland as though I belong to you and I thank you with all my heart."



The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who is half-way through a trip of Europe - her first journey in over two decades - was earlier greeted with thunderous applause by some 2,000 human rights campaigners, celebrities and music fans at the Electric Burma concert in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre.



The Nobel Peace Prize winner sat next to rock star Bono, who helped organise the gig and thanked Ms Suu Kyi for choosing to visit Ireland during her first trip away from Burma as a free woman.



"We are humbled, grateful at the fact one of your first trips overseas, you have chosen a small rock in the north Atlantic," said Bono.



"Although we know why - it is to hold our hands through the Italy game," he added - before Ireland's 2-0 defeat in Euro 2012.



"After all your years of wide-open heartache and in a closed space, your newly travelled road has brought you to Dublin to a great big bun fight in your honour," he went on.



Accepting her award, Ms Suu Kyi said she found the whole experience "totally unexpected".



"To receive this award is to remind me that 24 years ago, I took on duties from which I have never been relieved," said Ms Suu Kyi.



"But you have given me the strength to carry them out. You have shown me that I shall never be alone as I go about my discharge of these duties."



Other recipients of the Amnesty award include former Irish president Mary Robinson and Nelson Mandela, with whom Ms Suu Kyi has been compared.



James Bond star and activist Roger Moore, mother and daughter actresses Vanessa Redgrave and Joley Richardson, campaigner Bob Geldof, and Derry-born poet Seamus Heaney were among the famous Amnesty supporters in the crowd who were captivated by a performance by Riverdance, music and readings from Irish stars including singers Declan O'Rourke and Damien Rice, and actress Saoirse Ronan.



Outside the theatre, friends Htet Htet Naiag and Tinzat Zetiz, who both moved to Ireland from Burma six years ago, waited excitedly with thousands to see the human rights campaigner.



Ms Naiag, 24, who lives in Cork, said: "She is our great democratic leader of Burma and it means so much to me. I'm really proud to be Burmese."



Ms Zetiz added: "I came here to see our mother, an incredible woman. I'm really excited to be here.



"We really wish all the best to the Burmese people. She is a fantastic lady. Long life Aung San Suu Kyi!"



Ms Suu Kyi arrived in Dublin on a private jet for a packed seven hour visit, where she was met by Ireland's foreign minister, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.



She also visited Irish President Michael D Higgins, a veteran human rights campaigner, at his residence, Aras an Uachtarain.



Ms Suu Kyi will later leave for a four-day visit to Britain, where she lived, studied and married before returning and launching her long campaign in Burma.

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