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Sunday 24 September 2017

Melanie 'delighted' with Suu Kyi's iconic visit to capital

Mark Hilliard and Anne-Marie Walsh

GERRY Ryan's former partner Melanie Verwoerd last night spoke of her excitement at meeting Aung San Suu Kyi in Dublin today.

Ms Verwoerd, who was previously South African Ambassador to Ireland, said her old skills came in handy when Art for Amnesty founder Bill Shipsey enlisted her help to invite the Burmese pro-democracy leader to Ireland.

Thousands of people are expected to turn out to welcome Ms Suu Kyi when she is awarded the freedom of Dublin city tonight.

"I am so delighted and it is such an honour to have her here in Ireland," Ms Verwoerd said.

"The fact that she's willing to squeeze in this visit is a sign of how highly she regards Ireland as she's had a very tight schedule.

"We have so few role models and heroes in the world today that it's an absolute delight. I've never met her. She's been under house arrest for so long but obviously coming from the Liberation movement in South Africa, she was always on our radar screen."

"I was asked if I would help with the arrangements and protocol side of things, so old skills came in handy. An extraordinary group of people are coming together, like Vanessa Redgrave, Bono and great survivors of the human rights battle.

"This includes Wu'er Kaixi, one of the student leaders during the Tiananmen protests, who has been living in Taiwan for 23 years," she added.

Ms Suu Kyi accepted her Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 1991, at a special ceremony in Norway on Saturday.

Numerous stars of stage and screen are expected to turn out to this evening's Electric Burma event, organised by Amnesty International.

Bono, Damien Rice and Bob Geldof will feature on the guest list for the special concert organised in her honour at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre.

American rapper Lupe Fiasco, and actors Venessa Redgrave and Roger Moore will also attend.

Ms Suu Kyi's outdoor reception at the Grand Canal Plaza is due to begin at 7pm and she is expected to take to the stage at 8.30pm.

Her official schedule will begin, however, on arrival at Dublin Airport at around 3pm where she will be met by Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore. From there she will travel to meet President Michael D Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain before a red carpet entrance at the Bord Gais Theatre.

At around 6pm she will be presented with the Ambassador of Conscience Award by Bono before heading for Dublin's Grand Canal Plaza. She will leave Dublin tomorrow night.

Irish Independent

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