Higgins on song for cordial visit to North
MUSIC was in the air as President Michael D Higgins made his first official visit to Northern Ireland.
Mr Higgins was in Derry for the finals of the All-Island School Choir of the Year awards. The prestigious event in the city's Millennium Forum was won by Wesley College from Dublin.
"I am delighted to join you here tonight and to have had the privilege of enjoying such beautiful choral performances," said Mr Higgins.
"Hans Christian Andersen said that where words fail, music speaks."
Mr Higgins thanked all 46 choirs who entered the annual contest run by RTE and the charity, Cooperation Ireland.
"It has been inspiring to witness the final performances but every participating choir in this competition has shown the wonderful talent and teamwork that enabled each and every one of them to represent their school to the very, very best of their ability," he said. "Surely a people that can sing together in harmony is a wonderful and great omen for the future."
Wesley College beat other finalists De La Salle College, Waterford; Victoria College, Belfast; and Saint Joseph's, Navan.
The President travelled to the North only two days after his inauguration ceremony in Dublin. And the event came just five weeks after his last trip to the city, when he made an unscheduled stop during election campaigning in the north west.
Mr Higgins came to Derry in the wake of the bomb attack on the UK City of Culture office and used the visit to condemn dissident republican violence and pledge his support for the team organising the year of celebrations in 2013.
It was a busy first Sunday in the job for the 70-year-old father of four. Earlier in the day he attended a Remembrance Day service in Dublin in his first official duty as Head of State and laid a wreath during Evensong at St Patrick's Cathedral to pay his respects to the thousands of Irish soldiers killed in World Wars One and Two.
Other dignitaries at last night's event in Derry included Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell and Mr Higgins's long-time friend, SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan.