Saturday 3 December 2016

Michael D Higgins defends 'fawning' comments on Fidel Castro

Published 27/11/2016 | 14:38

President Michael D Higgins Picture: Tony Gavin
President Michael D Higgins Picture: Tony Gavin

President Michael D Higgins has defended his remarks on Fidel Castro, insisting he did raise the late Cuban leader's human rights record.

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Mr Higgins has come under fire for releasing what's been described as a "fawning" statement on the former communist dictator, who passed away at the age of 90.

The President described Castro as "a giant among global leaders".

Senator Ronan Mullen branded those comments "fawning and wholly inappropriate" while Fine Gael's Noel Rock said Mr Higgins should have recognised that Mr Castro's regime "killed and tortured political opponents".

This afternoon a spokesman for the President insisted that his statement did refer to human rights abuses in Cuba.

"The President’s statement clearly referred to the price paid for social and economic development in terms of civil society and the criticisms it brought."

He added: "This obviously and unambiguously included the human rights organisations and activists who have always had the support of the President."

The spokesman said: "Any suggestion that the President neglected human rights concerns is both unsustainable and unwarranted.

"The President has discussed human rights concerns with representatives of the Government of Cuba on every occasion he has had meetings, in Cuba, Ireland and elsewhere," he added.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said Mr Higgins is "quite entitled to make his views known on the passing of Castro".

Mr Flanagan's own statement on Castro's death said he was "a dictator who presided over a questionable regime with human rights issues".

Speaking on the Week in Politics, Mr Flanagan said he isn't "a fan" of Castro but added: "I come from an historically different position than President Higgins".

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