Tuesday 23 May 2017

Higgins 'moved' by influence of peace process on Colombia

President Michael D Higgins at the Universidad National de Colombia (UNAL) as he makes his way to give his address on the Irish and Colombian peace processes with Professor Ignacio Mantilla Prada, left, rector of UNAL. Photo: Maxwells
President Michael D Higgins at the Universidad National de Colombia (UNAL) as he makes his way to give his address on the Irish and Colombian peace processes with Professor Ignacio Mantilla Prada, left, rector of UNAL. Photo: Maxwells

Ryan Nugent

President Michael D Higgins said it was "deeply moving" that Colombia used the peace process in Ireland as an inspiration for its own conflict agreement, in a keynote address in Bogota yesterday.

Representatives from all sides of the Colombian Peace Agreement have made clear the importance of the Good Friday Agreement in settling its own conflict, with Mr Higgins telling a large crowd at the National University of Colombia that Ireland will continue to provide support.

"We in Ireland understand the difficult and painful choices that peace and reconciliation can entail and we also understand and were grateful for support that came to us from our friends at critical junctures on the path to peace," Mr Higgins said.

Among the audience were more than 30 members of the Irish community who have settled in Colombia - one of whom was James Goulding (42) from Cork, who introduced his six-month-old baby Rose to President Higgins and Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar before the minister jetted off back to Ireland for a vote of no-confidence today.

James has been living in Bogota with his partner, Karina Caraballo, for two years, and now with his daughter Rose.

"She's already got her Irish passport... she's got her Colombian passport too," James said of the new addition to the family.

"It's a very small Irish community and we're very proud of Ireland because of that, so of course for the president to come, it's something very important to meet him.

"When we meet a lot of the Colombian community, they recognise the input Ireland has had into their peace process and they can relate to Ireland because of that."

Earlier, on Monday morning, the president met with the vice-presidential candidate for the opposition party, Centro Democratico. The party has made its reservations to some parts of the peace agreement known. The president is understood to have insisted on the meeting so that he would be able to learn of the major concerns of the main opposition party, following his meeting with the FARC former rebel group on Sunday. Mr Higgins was also introduced to a number of civil rights groups last night.

He is due to visit Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in the Presidential Palace later.

Irish Independent

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