PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins is to begin an official two-week visit to South America later today.
The President will meet with the presidents of Brazil, Chile and Argentina in a bid to reinforce Ireland’s relations with the countries.
Michael D and his wife Sabina recently completed a three week Spanish language and culture course in Santander in Spain in preparation for the trip.
He is due to meet with Chilean leader Sebastián Pinera on Thursday and will lay a wreathe at the monument to Chilean independence leader Bernardo O’Higgins, who was of Irish descent.
The President will also visit the grave of Salvador Allende, the former president of Chile who committed suicide while defending the presidential palace during a US-backed coup in 1973 which put in place General Augusto Pinochet.
The President will be accompanied by more than 40 Irish companies and education institutions when he travels to Brazil towards the end of this week. Brazil is the sixth largest economy in the world and a priority investment and trade market for Ireland.
He will meet with the former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as well as current president Dilma Rousseff. He will also visit the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro as part of a Tourism Ireland promotion.
In Argentina, Michael D will meet with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as well as members of the Irish diaspora.
The President and Sabina will be accompanied by Minister for State at the Department of Foreign Affairs Joe Costello, as well as officials from Áras an Uachtaráin and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.