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Visit signals the dawn of new hope for democracy

SHE has been a Freewoman of Dublin City since 1999, but Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was the only recipient of that honour who has been unable to receive it in person. Yesterday that was rectified.

Her visit to Dublin to receive this and several other awards, including the Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience award, is immensely significant for us and, we believe, for her and the struggle for democracy in Burma as well.

Burma has been under military dictatorship since 1962. The single democratic election there since then was in 1990, and Daw (a Burmese honorific for older or revered women) Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) won 84pc of the votes.

The Burmese military refused to accept the democratic will of the people, and imprisoned her and her colleagues for many years.

Daw Suu Kyi was under house arrest for most of the past two decades.

Following the popular uprising in Burma in 2007, the military government forced through a new constitution whereby their grip on power would remain strong.

Top brass took on the clothes of civilians and held a heavily-controlled election to put themselves into the new pseudo-civilian parliament.

Daw Suu Kyi was released from house arrest shortly after this sham election. In April, a freer by-election was held, and her party, the NLD, took 41 out of 43 available seats. They are, however, a tiny minority in the Burmese parliament, which has 664 seats.

Her visit to Ireland and four other European countries represents, hopefully, the dawn of a new hope for democracy in Burma.

Mary Montaut is a member of Burma Action Ireland

Irish Independent