McAleese praises 'man of peace' Gorbachev
IRISH children are able to visit Russia because of the leadership shown by former president Mikhail Gorbachev who oversaw the transition from communism to democracy, said President Mary McAleese yesterday.
The President last night praised the last general secretary of the Soviet Union's Communist Party, describing him as a 'man of peace' who opened up the country to other nations.
And in a meeting hosted by the Irish Embassy in Moscow last night, the former Russian leader revealed that three family members had studied English in Ireland since his last visit in 2002.
In what was described as a "very warm meeting", Mrs McAleese praised his "leadership role" and noted the "high esteem" with which he was held by his Irish and European colleagues.
Diplomatic sources said his attendance was a clear sign that Mr Gorbachev was seen as an acceptable figure to the current regime. The former president has criticised the current administration.
Mr Gorbachev was the last head of state of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), serving from 1988 until its collapse in 1991.
Credited with ending the Cold War and overseeing the transition to democracy, his career resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet Union and led to him being awarded the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize. Speaking at a reception which was attended by the 79-year-old Mr Gorbachev last night, Mrs McAleese said his leadership came at a critical time in history.
"President Gorbachev, our children can get to know each other in ways the previous generation could only dream of," Mrs McAleese said.
"They will do so in peace, they do so in prosperity, they do so with a freedom and a confidence that so many generations longed for but never achieved."
On the second day of a five-day trade mission to the Russian Federation -- the first by an Irish President in 20 years -- Mrs McAleese started her morning with a business networking breakfast after which she laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
She then travelled to the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies, which has invested €3.1bn in companies developing new technologies in areas such as renewable energy and the 'smart' economy.
Mrs McAleese said the trade mission was needed to give Irish companies as much help as possible in entering new markets.
"We've got to do everything we can to increase trade wherever we can," she said.
"We see the Russian market as having huge potential. We've about 200 firms already doing business here, with about 24 having permanent bases here.
"Our own economy is beginning to come around and we just have to do everything that is humanly possible to galvanise that momentum."
Earlier, the President also met with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, whom she had met last year in Ireland.
They discussed the ongoing important role the Russian Orthodox Church played in Ireland. There are five Orthodox communities in Ireland, the biggest of which is in Harold's Cross in Dublin.
Today Mrs McAleese will meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev before travelling to St Petersburg. She returns to Ireland on Saturday.