President Michael D Higgins has defended the controversial prison visit paid by his wife to activist Margaretta D'Arcy, saying it was a “private and personal” visit to a friend.
Aras an Uachtarain last night confirmed that Sabina Higgins had undertaken the visit last weekend but had done so in a private capacity.
Ms D’Arcy (79), who is a member of Aosdana, is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and has also been diagnosed with cancer.
She was jailed last week for refusing to sign a bond to keep the peace and stay away from unauthorised zones at Shannon Airport.
Speaking in Dublin this morning, President Higgins said his wife was simply visiting a friend and said the "appropriateness" of the visit was irrelevant.
"That issue doesn't arise at all. Sabina was visiting a friend of long-standing whose health is frail and who was a fellow artist with Sabina and were in many performances together."
"Sabina is a person who can speak for herself as well and is a person of very good judgment. We do a lot of things together but we do a lot of other things as well," he said.
He then added: "It's not for me to comment. It's a private and personal visit but it really is a private and personal visit to her friend who is fragile and a friend who is a fellow artist.
Ms D'arcy had received a three-month suspended prison sentence in December for illegal incursion of the runway at Shannon Airport on October 7, 2012 in protest at the use of the airport by the US military.
Her sentence was activated after she refused to sign the bond. She was arrested at her home in Galway city last Wednesday and taken by gardai to Limerick Prison.
President Michael D Higgins referred to his close friendship with the couple when he spoke at John Arden’s funeral at Mount Jerome crematorium in April, 2012.
Ms D’Arcy’s son, Finn Arden, along with two peace activists, Cmdt Edward Horgan (retired) of Shannonwatch and Niall Farrell of the Galway Alliance Against War (GAAW), visited the prison yesterday and said that she had raised concerns about conditions at the female section of Limerick prison.
The activists said in a statement that Ms D'Arcy would only sign a bond to keep the peace if there was no direct reference to Shannon Airport.