HE was once held at gunpoint over his stance on human rights.
But yesterday, President Michael D Higgins witnessed the fruit of his decades of humanitarian work.
In 1982, Mr Higgins – then a TD – was arrested in El Salvador, interrogated at gunpoint and eventually deported to Nicaragua, making international headlines.
But yesterday, some 30 years later, the President was welcomed with open arms, bestowed with national honours and dined in the presidential palace.
Ten of thousands of Salvadoreans were brutally tortured, raped and murdered by a US-armed government during their civil war of 1979-1992.
President Higgins was a leading international spokesperson of the atrocities, highlighting the brutality to European and Irish politicians and American media.
In his keynote speech at the university where six Jesuits were murdered in 1989, alongside a caretaker's wife and her 16-year-old daughter, President Higgins said that there was "no greater object of sorrow, nothing more upsetting than a human life not being allowed to bloom to its full potential".
As a politician who has spent his career highlighting injustice and using his voice where others had none, yesterday's speech bore the fruit of 30 years of work. After a bilateral meeting, Mr Higgins was offered lunch by President Funes, where he touched on Northern Ireland's experience with conflict and peace resolution. He told the guests that Irish people knew how important it was to "reject amnesia about the past" and the necessity of an "ethical memory" in order to move forward to a shared future.
President Higgins later addressed the legislative assembly of El Salvador, telling them that his connections with their country and its people "influenced" his "outlook on the world".
He told the politicians that it was not enough to promote and protect rights in your country alone but that "we must continue to keep others awake" and support human rights around the world.