Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Irishmen celebrated for Chile role

Stamps marking the 200th anniversary of the struggle for independence in Chile feature Irishmen Bernard O'Higgins and John (Juan) MacKenna

Two Irishmen who played a crucial role in Chile's struggle for independence have been celebrated in both countries.

Bernardo O'Higgins, regarded as the Liberator of Chile, and John (Juan) MacKenna, a Commandant General of the Chilean army, feature on stamps simultaneously issued in Ireland and Chile.

Images of each man in full military dress by Irish artist Ger Garland will mark the bi-centenary of Chile's independence.

Chilean Ambassador Leonel Searle said: "The recent events that occurred in Chile have shown the world the spirit of unity and courage to follow with conviction an ideal and strong sense of solidarity. That is the character which national heroes such as those we honour today, forged into the country's collective consciousness. They were never found wanting when our nation demanded sacrifices and renunciations to achieve their goals."

One of the founding fathers of Chile, O'Higgins is widely celebrated by the Chilean nation and a monument to him stands in Dublin's Merrion Square.

The son of the Irish-born governor of Chile, he was a leading figure in the movement to overthrow the ruling Spanish administration and was the first head of state of the independent Chile.

MacKenna, from Monaghan, was a key military figure and was for a time Commandant General of O'Higgins's army. He is credited with a famous victory over superior forces at Membrillo. After a coup d'etat in 1814 he was exiled to Argentina and died in a duel in Buenos Aires.

An Post said it was its first joint issue with a South American country, whereby both countries simultaneously issue the same stamp designs marking an event of shared significance.

Barney Whelan, director of communications and corporate affairs, said the issuing of two 82c stamps so soon after the release of the Chilean miners made the event even more special. "The people of Chile can be justifiably proud of the nation they built with the help of MacKenna and O'Higgins," he added. "We can be proud that these two heroes were sons of Ireland."

The stamp set and a specially commissioned first day cover are available from www.irishstamps.ie and at main post offices.

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