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President Higgins expresses his "great sadness" upon hearing of Fidel Castro's death

Donald Trump, meanwhile, called Castro a “brutal dictator who oppressed his people for six decades”.

Updated 7.25pm

IRISH PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has issued a statement concerning the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, expressing his “great sadness” upon hearing the news.

Castro’s passing was announced by his brother, current Cuban president Raul, this morning.

“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,” President Higgins said.

He “brought significant political and social change to his country” the president added.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Brendan Carr said he will open a book of condolence at the Mansion House next week “to allow Dubliners pay their own respects”.

Members of the public will be able to sign the book from 11am to 4pm on Monday and from 10am to 4pm on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan released the following statement: “I would like to express my condolences to the people of Cuba at this time. While his legacy is a complex one, Fidel Castro was a major figure in twentieth century history and his death marks the end of an era.”

The Workers’ Party said it learned of its “comrade” Castro’s death “with a sense of deep sadness”.

Donald Trump

US President-elect Donald Trump has had his say, with a slightly perplexing tweet sent at 8am US time.

In a later statement, Trump called Castro a “brutal dictator who oppressed his people for six decades”.

While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.

He made no mention of his earlier threats to reverse a historic rapprochement carried out by the two countries under President Barack Obama, saying only “our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty”.

Trump’s erstwhile Republican rival Ted Cruz (himself a Texan of Cuban descent) was less opaque in his own reaction:

“Fidel Castro’s death cannot bring back his thousands of victims, nor can it bring comfort to their families,” Cruz wrote on Facebook.

Today we remember them and honor the brave souls who fought the lonely fight against the brutal Communist dictatorship he imposed on Cuba.

Russia

Russian premier Vladimir Putin has led tributes from world leaders to Castro.

Castro was 90, and had suffered from ill health for some time. His body is to be cremated later today in accordance with his wishes according to his brother, while his state funeral is to be held next Sunday, 4 December, after nine days of national mourning.

Putin praised Castro as the “symbol of an era,” in a statement issued by the Kremlin.

“The name of this distinguished statesman is rightly considered the symbol of an era in modern world history,” the Russian leader said in a telegram to Castro’s brother cited by the Kremlin. “Fidel Castro was a sincere and reliable friend of Russia.”

Cuba Fidel Castro Vladimir Putin and Fidel Castro in Havana in July 2014 Source: AP/Press Association Images

Putin added that Castro has managed to build a “free and independent Cuba” that “became an influential member of the international community and served as an inspiration for many countries and peoples”.

For many years Soviet Russia was among Communist Cuba’s few friends internationally given the island state’s adverse relationship with the US, the country whose trade embargo Cuba toiled for many years.

“Colossal pressure”

Former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev meanwhile hailed Castro for “strengthening Cuba”.

“Fidel stood up and strengthened his country during the harshest American blockade, when there was colossal pressure on him and he still took his country out of this blockade to a path of independent development,” Interfax news agency quoted Gorbachev as saying.

The news of Castro’s passing came in time for the American media to have its say on the iconic figure.

The New York Times this morning describes Castro as a man who “bedevilled 11 American presidents and briefly pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war”.

Castro ”became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people,” the paper says.

For the Miami Herald, representing a city so closely associated with Cuba and Cuban refugees, Castro was “a shaggy-bearded figure in combat fatigues whose long shadow spread across Latin America and the world”, while the paper wondered if history will absolve him – as Castro once defiantly claimed – or if he will be vilified.

French president Francois Hollande meanwhile said that Castro embodied the ”hopes” and later the “disappointments”of Cuba’s 1959 revolution.

“An actor of the Cold War… he represented, for Cubans pride in rejecting external domination,” Hollande added, alluding to Castro’s defiance of the US.

With reporting by © AFP 2016 and Órla Ryan

Read: Fidel Castro has died at the age of 90

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