Belfast Telegraph

McAleese set to begin Spain visit

President Mary McAleese travels to Spain on Sunday for a three-day official visit that includes high-level meetings with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and other dignitaries.

Aras an Uachtarain said the Madrid and Barcelona trip would focus on consolidating the strong relationship between Ireland and Spain, focusing on economic, trade and educational links.

Ms McAleese will be accompanied by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.

The packed itinerary begins on Monday when the President will address the Nueva Economic Forum in the Spanish capital on the Irish economy.

Ms McAleese will then be guest of honour at a special lunch hosted by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, before receiving the Gold Key of Madrid from the Mayor and attend an Irish community reception.

It will feature a joint performance by acclaimed Galician piper, Carlos Nunez and Irish traditional musicians.

On Tuesday the President will take part in a number of high-level bilateral meetings with Mr Zapatero and the President of the Congress of Deputies.

That evening Ms McAleese will receive the Medal of Honour of the University of Alcala de Henares and attend the inauguration of their new Irish Studies programme launched in conjunction with NUI Maynooth.

Other events that day include taking a class in Irish food hosted by An Bord Bia and conducted by the Spanish chef, Mario Sandoval.

On the final day of the trip the President will visit La Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, a Unesco World Heritage site.

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