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Irish President’s three-day visit to London

President Michael D Higgins at London Irish Centre,  21/2/2012

The three-day visit of President Higgins to London will be his first official engagement abroad since taking office.

Áras an Uachtaráin has confirmed his itinerary for the visit to the English capital, which will run from February 21-23.

During his election campaign President Higgins was the only candidate to visit Britain.

Then, he made building relations with the Irish community abroad a large part of his mandate.

Day one of the President’s programme includes a visit to the London Irish Centre in Camden where the Irish ambassador Bobby McDonagh will host a reception.

This will be followed by a lecture at the London School of Economics (LSE) where Mr Higgins will address an audience of up to 400 people.

On Wednesday 22, he will visit the Olympic Park and meet with Lord Coe, the President of the London Olympic Games Organising Committee.

In the afternoon a meeting is scheduled with members of the Irish business, cultural and wider community at a reception at the Irish Embassy.

That evening, the President will attend a joint production performance of Juno and Paycock, involving the Abbey Theatre and the National Theatre of Great Britain at the Lyttelton Theatre.

He will depart for Dublin on the morning of February 23.

“It is a great honour that the President will make his first official address abroad the London Irish Centre,” said David Barlow, director of the centre in Camden.

“Mr Higgins said in September that he would make every effort to return to Britain if he got elected and we are delighted this visit is in keeping with that. He will meet with the staff, make an address and there will be a short period of music. As the biggest centre for Irish people abroad, we are proud to be recognised and very much looking forward to the visit.”

President Higgins follows in the footsteps of former Irish Presidents Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson by delivering  a public lecture at the London School of Economics (LSE).

“A lot of world leaders come here to speak when they visit London,” said Sun Windebank from LSE.

“In terms of Irish connections, George Bernard Shaw is one of the founders of the school and our current chairman of governors is Peter Sutherland. We are delighted President Higgins is giving a lecture at the LSE. We have a rich history with speakers from Ireland.”

Former Taoiseach John Bruton and former Irish finance minister Charley McCreevy have also given lectures at the LSE along with world figures likes Nelson Mandella and Madeline Albright.

Last month Bill Gates and the Italian Prime minister Mario Monti gave lectures.

It is expected that President Higgins will address an audience of 400 people.

The title of his lecture is Of Public Intellectuals, Universities, A Democratic Crisis.

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