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Saturday 21 October 2017

Higgins keen on Central America for next trip

Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

JUST returned from his official visit to South America, President Michael D Higgins has hinted that one of his next foreign trips will be to Central America.

The President, who has a close connection with Latin America, described his visit to Chile, Brazil and Argentina as "very warm".

"I have very enthusiast invitations from other parts of South America and I have even more enthusiastic requests from some heads of state in Central America who are very anxious that I visit and it will not be that long," he said.

In Buenos Aires, President Higgins paid homage to Patrick Rice -- the former missionary and human rights activist from Ballynoe, Co Cork -- by unveiling a plaque in his memory at the Patrick Rice Space.

Mr Higgins met Mr Rice's widow Fatima and three children, at the centre dedicated to his memory not far from the building where he was detained and tortured in October 1976. The President is the first foreign head of state to visit the museum where over 5,000 Argentines were tortured before they were "disappeared" during the"dirty war" in the 1970s.

He also viewed a sculpture displaying the open letter to the military junta by Rudolfo Walsh, an Argentine of Irish descant.

And he met some mothers of the disappeared, the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, in their distinctive headscarves and badges with the pictures of their missing loved ones on their lapels.

Among them were Haydea Coasteli whose son was abducted; and Vera Jarach, whose daughter was abducted. They have no idea what happened to them except that they were tortured and murdered.

Fatima Rice appealed to the President for Ireland to sign the International Convention for the Protection of People from Enforced Disappearance, which the President said he understood to be at an advanced stage.

Later he was serenaded by Megan Wade (16), who sang 'Galway Bay' at the Hurling Club in Hurlingham outside Buenos Aires, an oasis of Irishness.

Although hurling hasn't been played there since World War Two because of the difficulty of importing ash for the hurleys, rugby and hockey are played under the banner of 'Hurling Club'.

Mr Higgins said meeting representatives of Argentina's 500,000-strong Irish community was important to him.

Irish Independent

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