President Higgins signs book of condolence for Fidel Castro

A statement by Mr Higgins on the Cuban leader has been criticised

President Higgins signs book of condolence for Fidel Castro

Image via @SeanDefoe on Twitter

President Michael D Higgins has signed a book of condolence for former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Mr Higgins signed the book at the Cuban embassy in Dublin.

A second book will also be opened at the Mansion House by the Lord Mayor Brendan Carr from 11.00am.

Writing in the book, President Higgins expressed his sympathies on behalf of the people of Ireland.

"On behalf of the people of Ireland to express their sympathies to the people of Cuba on the passing of former head of State Fidel Castro Ruiz."

He also wrote a short message in Spanish.

Gerry Adams to attend funeral

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams is set to attend Mr Castro's funeral in Havana.

He told the Pat Kenny Show here on Newstalk the former president had an interest in Irish history.

"I'm very honoured to go there to represent Sinn Féin at the funeral of Fidel Castro.

"I met him a number of times: during a visit to open a memorial to the 1981 hunger strikers, which is a very beautiful memorial in the centre of Havana in the Victor Hugo Square".

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams with Cuban Leader President Fidel Castro at the opening of a school in Havana in 2001 | Image: Paul Faith PA Archive/PA Images

He believes that even though a lot has changed since Mr Castro came to power, he and his ideals are still well respected.

"Any remarks that I heard in Cuba itself about Fidel was always with affection.

"I would like to think - I don't know - but I would like to think that the next generation, and I met some of the next generation, I presume that they will start to shape their revolution to meet both the challenges and the opportunities of this modern time".

Higgins criticism

Mr Higgins has been criticised for a statement he made following Mr Castro's death on Saturday.

He said: "Fidel Castro will be remembered as a giant among global leaders whose view was not only one of freedom for his people but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet."

Independent Senator Rónán Mullen has criticised President Higgins’s tribute, calling it "offensive and wholly inappropriate".

"Our president is silent regarding the long catalogue of abuses of power by Castro over his long rule.

President Higgins states merely that the achievements of the Castro regime 'were at the price of a restriction of civil society'.

"He even goes on to call those millions of exiled Cubans and others who opposed the theft and oppression of the Castro regime as 'critics'. This is disgraceful equivocation about grave wrongdoing."

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said the President's moral authority is now "in tatters", adding that his statement downplayed the human rights abuses that took place under Castro's regime.

A spokesperson for the president has said any suggestion that Mr Higgins neglected Fidel Castro's human rights concerns is "both unsustainable and unwarranted".