Sunday 24 June 2018

President praised for honest analysis of Aboriginal history

President Michael D Higgins inspects a guard of honour on the second day of his visit to Canberra. Photo: Maxwells
President Michael D Higgins inspects a guard of honour on the second day of his visit to Canberra. Photo: Maxwells
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

President Michael D Higgins met with the first Australian Aboriginal woman to become a member of the country's House of Representatives, as he spent his first day in Canberra.

Among them was Linda Burney, who delivered her maiden speech in parliament in 2016, wearing a traditional kangaroo skin cloak.

Throughout his state visit, the President has highlighted Irish people's responsibility and role in the persecution of Aboriginals.

Yesterday, Ms Burney said it was welcome to hear a man of Mr Higgins's standing discuss history with such honesty.

"It is so fresh to hear that acknowledgement," she said.

"It is a real sign of truth telling and of recognising that not all of history was rollicking and grand and that some of it was very troubling," she said.

President Higgins meets Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with his wife Sabina. Photo: Maxwells
President Higgins meets Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with his wife Sabina. Photo: Maxwells

"And it is a pleasant surprise to hear that and I am grateful for it."

President Higgins began his day in the country's capital with a meeting and lunch with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Turnbull asked Mr Higgins about the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum. The result of Australia's same-sex marriage postal survey is due next month with more than 62pc of the population having already voted.

The President and his wife, Sabina, stressed the need to maintain the "necessary courtesies" of debate and acknowledged the contributions Irish families had played in the run-up to the 2015 referendum.

The two men also discussed Brexit and the implications of Britain leaving the EU.

Mr Higgins voiced his concerns and emphasised the Good Friday Agreement was an international treaty and had to be carefully considered in ongoing negotiations.

He also briefed the prime minister on Ireland's bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

The President also visited the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, where he laid a wreath.

The museum focuses on the contribution the Australian and New Zealand army corps made during the world wars. During the Great War, almost 6,000 Irishmen served in Australian forces and nearly 900 were killed.

Mr Higgins was joined by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald for the visit to the capital.

Irish Independent

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