President Higgins meets with Colombian President Santos

The Irish President said Ireland is privileged to share in "Colombia’s journey from conflict to peace"

President Higgins meets with Colombian President Santos

Michael D Higgins and Juan Manuel Santos. Image: President of Ireland via Twitter

President Higgins met with his Colombian counter-part President Juan Manuel Santos as part of his official trip to South America today.

It was the first ever presidential visit from Ireland to Colombia.

Today's meeting came a day after President Higgins became the first foreign head of state to visit a fully de-mobilised FARC guerrilla camp.

During the visit, the Irish Government signed memorandums of understanding on sport and education cooperation. A similar deal was signed by University College Cork and the National University of Colombia.

Speaking through an interpreter, President Santos said that Ireland's role in supporting the Colombian Peace Process was inspirational.

"Ireland has been very supportive of peace in Colombia," he said. "The Northern Ireland peace process was an inspiration to us all".

President Higgins said: "I spoke with President Santos of my concern about the increase in threats against and killings of social leaders, first line defenders, trade unionists and human rights defenders in Colombia. I know that the Colombian government is very aware of the need to strengthen the state presence in and bring new measures to bear on the affected regions and to protect and defend civil society actors.

"Let me again thank the President and the people of Colombia for their warm welcome. I used the opportunity of this first visit by a serving President of Ireland to convey to all Colombians Ireland’s encouragement on the country’s journey towards peace and reconciliation."

He added: "Ireland is privileged to have been allowed to share, and make its contribution, in Colombia’s journey from conflict to peace, from darkness to light.”