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‘Hello Mr President’ – The School of Welsh celebrates with Ireland’s head of state

30 October 2014

Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, was in Wales for an official two-day visit along with his wife Sabina to celebrate the political, economic, educational and cultural connections between the two countries.

As part of his visit, the President hosted a community reception at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay for the Irish population of South Wales and others with connections to the country. Present at the event were representatives from Cardiff University's School of Welsh including six students currently study Gaelic under the guidance of Professor Diarmait Mac Giolla Chriost and Ciara Ni Bhroin.

Professor Mac Giolla Chriost said of the event: "It was a pleasure for me as an Irishman living in Wales to see the two cultures and communities coming together and to meet President Higgins. There are so many things in common between our two countries not least from a literature, heritage and political standpoint. So much to compare and celebrate."

Ifan Birtwistle, a second year student studying Gaelic, added: "It has been a slightly surreal day but a brilliant experience. Studying Gaelic this year has opened up my eyes to the many similarities between Wales and Ireland. This event has brought the language and culture of Ireland to life for me and also demonstrated the strength of the relationship between the countries. It was fantastic to see how established the Irish culture and community is here in Cardiff."

During this, his first since he took office in 2011, President Higgins travelled across South and South West Wales. Following meetings in the capital and a visit to the Senedd with First Minister Carwyn Jones, President Higgins and his wife also visited Swansea. 

President Higgins and his wife officially opened the Dylan Thomas Centre, following a period of renovation, and celebrated the centenary of the literary giant's birth. As part of the proceedings President Higgins read from Dylan Thomas' unfinished poem, Elegy.

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