FORMER Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has told Irish politicians that members of his government will “continue fighting for our freedom. It doesn’t matter if we are in jail or in exile.”
Spanish authorities are prosecuting people accused of being involved in 2017’s failed bid for Catalan independence.
The then-Catalan government held a referendum in defiance of Madrid and declared independence afterwards.
The Spanish government imposed direct rule and dissolved the Catalan regional parliament.
With the Spanish authorities accusing Catalan ministers of rebellion, Mr Puigdemont and some of his colleagues fled to Belgium.
He is in Dublin today where he had a meeting with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and is also attending a conference at Trinity College.
Mr Puigdemont also addressed TDs at a meeting in Leinster House organised by the Oireachtas Friends of Catalonia group chaired by Sinn Féin senator Paul Cavan.
The former president disputed allegations that the independence bid was a rebellion saying that this suggests the use of violence and weapons.
He said: “Our path is a democratic path, a non-violent path. We want to be Independent only with non-violent and democratic means.”
He claimed: “All the attempts to reach an agreement with the Spanish State have failed and the only response from the Spanish government was repression.”
Mr Puigdemont said: “We will continue fighting for our freedom. It doesn’t matter if we are in jail or in exile...
“And we will respect always the decision of the Catalan people. Because our commitment to respecting the result of the ballot boxes.”
He said that if the Catalan people voted ‘No’ to independence he would respect that and he challenged the Spanish State to give a commitment that it would accept a ‘Yes’ vote.
Mr Puigdemont said he respects the policies of European countries towards the question of Catalan independence and that his goal is to have an opportunity to answer questions and be listened to.
He said meeting Irish ministers was not the goal of his visit to Dublin and declined to offer details of what he discussed with Mr Ahern saying it was a “private meeting”.
It has been a pleasure to meet former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin. I have discussed several international issues including the Catalan conflict with the former Irish PM pic.twitter.com/YsN6NgqfTh— Carles Puigdemont (@KRLS) January 29, 2019
Earlier he Tweeted a photograph of himself with Mr Ahern and said: “It has been a pleasure to meet former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin.
“I have discussed several international issues including the Catalan conflict with the former Irish PM.”