Suggestion that President Higgins neglected human rights concerns is 'unwarranted', spokesperson says

Michael D Higgins has faced criticism for his statement in response to the death of Fidel Castro

Suggestion that President Higgins neglected human rights concerns is 'unwarranted', spokesperson says

President Higgins. Image:

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

President Higgins has faced criticism for his statement marking the death of the former Cuban leader yesterday.

He expressed "great sadness" at the news of Castro's death, adding that he "will be remembered as a giant among global leaders".

Former Government Press Secretary Gerard Howlin told Newstalk's Sunday Show the he believed President Higgins overstepped the boundaries, while Independent Senator Ronan Mullen described the President's statement as "fawning, offensive and wholly inappropriate".

This evening, a spokesperson said President Higgins' statement "clearly referred to the price paid for social and economic development in terms of civil society and the criticisms it brought. This obviously and unambiguously included the Human Rights organisations and activists who have always had the support of the President."

The spokesperson also pointed out that the statement referenced "the opportunities provided by restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States, and the response which has come from the visit of Pope Francis. The President was here referring to the release of prisoners."

He also noted that "any suggestion that the President neglected Human Rights concerns is both unsustainable and unwarranted. The President has discussed Human Rights concerns with representatives of the Government of Cuba on every occasion he has had meetings, in Cuba, Ireland and elsewhere."