Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will be meeting Monday with Michael D. Higgins, the president of Ireland who is touring the Northeast in his first official visit to America since being elected last fall.
Higgins and his wife, First Lady Sabina Coyne Higgins, are spending four days in New York City, where Malloy will meet them at a reception at the Consulate General of Ireland in Manhattan.
The presidency of Ireland is a less powerful position than the presidency in the United States. In Ireland, the prime minister serves as the head of the government, and the presidency is a largely ceremonial post.
After finishing a tour of New York City, Higgins will head for two days in Boston. New York and Boston are seen as the two largest centers of Irish life in America. In a whirlwind trip, Higgins will meet at City Hall with New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and at the United Nations with Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
One of his themes will be to seek help for the ailing Irish economy.
“In today’s global economy, it’s more important than ever to build alliances, strengthen relationships and communicate with those abroad about all that Connecticut has to offer,” Malloy said in a statement. “The ties between Ireland and the United States run deep in our history. It’s a relationship that has served both countries well and one that must continue in the years ahead. I want to thank the consulate for their invitation and look forward to welcoming newly elected President Higgins and the First Lady to the United States.”
On his trip, Higgins will also visit the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City, which commemorates the Irish potato famine of 1847 that led to the deaths and emigrations of millions of Irish people. Ireland’s population of 8 million slipped to 4 million in a span of only five years due to the problems of “Black 47.”
The famine caused nearly 1.5 million Irish to starve to death and 2.5 million to flee to the United States, Canada, and Australia between 1845 and 1850. The emigration had a major impact on Boston and New York as the Irish settled in various neighborhoods such as Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen and the Fordham section of the Bronx.
Born in Limerick, the 71-year-old Higgins served as the former mayor of Galway.
He won the presidency in late October by defeating several candidates, including Martin McGuinness, who was well known as a leader of the Irish Republican Army.