ADDRESSING AN AUDIENCE in Dublin this evening, Burmese pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi said that today will be “one of the unforgettable days” of her life.
“I have been welcomed to Ireland as though I belong to you,” she told the crowds at Grand Canal Square. “You have stood by us in our times of trouble. These troubles are not yet all over and I am confident that you will continue to stand with us.”
Please believe that when I say that you are a part of my heart, I really mean it with my whole heart.
Suu Kyi’s words were made after she was presented with the prestigious Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award at a ceremony at the Bord Gáis Theatre.
She also formally received the Freedom of the City, which had been bestowed on her in 2000. A sculpture of Irish bog oak, entitled In Flight to symbolise her new-found freedom, was also presented to the Burmese civil rights activist.
Suu Kyi arrived in Dublin this morning fresh from delivering her Nobel Lecture, a full 21 years after she received the peace award. It is only her second trip outside of Burma, where she was held on house arrest for over 20 years, since the 1980s.
Introducing Suu Kyi today, Lord Mayor of Dublin Andrew Montague likened her to Irishman Daniel O’Connell because of their peaceful protests.
Earlier today, she was welcomed at Dublin Airport by U2 frontman Bono and an Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.
Gilmore described the visit as something “which we have long hoped to see”.
“Above all today is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the warmth and affection in which this remarkable and courageous woman is rightly held by the Irish people,” he added.
During her trip to Áras an Uachtaráin, President Michael D Higgins recalled when her case was first brought to his attention in 1989 through material forwarded by her late husband Michael Aris.
“This formed the basis for my raising and pursuing her situation, and that of the people of Burma, in the Oireachtas in late 1989 and on through 1991 and succeeding years,” he remembered.