Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Irish president hits right note on first visit

New President of Ireland Michael D Higgins is welcomed to Londonderry by Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson (left) and Don Keegan, High Sheriff of Londonderry

The new President of the Irish Republic has made his first visit to Northern Ireland on his first day of official engagements.

Seen by many as a statement of intent, Michael D Higgins was guest of honour at the All Island School Choir Competition held in Londonderry.

Victoria College pupils from south Belfast narrowly lost out in the final to Wesley College, Dublin.

The ninth President of the Republic said he was privileged to have witnessed such beautiful choral performances.

Mr Higgins, who was |accompanied by his wife Sabina, also congratulated RTE and Co-operation Ireland for organising the “wonderful showcase of talent”. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, Nobel laureate John Hume and new SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell, were among the audience gathered at the Millennium Forum for the competition.

President Higgins’ long-time friend, Foyle MP Mark Durkan, said the visit honoured his promise to return to the city, after Mr Higgins called at the City of Culture offices following a Real IRA bomb explosion outside the premises.

In recent days Mr Higgins has praised the work of his predecessors — Belfast-born Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson — and said he is determined to forge relationships and build bridges between north and south during his seven-year tenure.

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