Michael D. Higgins has defended his comments on Fidel Castro
President Michael D. Higgins has come in for criticism following his statement on the death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro.
In the statement, Higgins had referred to Castro 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."
The statement did not focus on Castro's human rights abuses, though it did include the caveat "The economic and social reforms introduced were at the price of a restriction of civil society, which brought its critics. "
Higgins was criticised for his statement by other Irish politicians, including Senator Ronan Mullen and TD Noel Rock.
According to the Independent, a spokesperson for Higgins has argued that the statement did make a clear reference to human rights abuses in Cuba:
"The President’s statement clearly referred to the price paid for social and economic development in terms of civil society and the criticisms it brought. This obviously and unambiguously included the human rights organisations and activists who have always had the support of the President. Any suggestion that the President neglected human rights concerns is both unsustainable and unwarranted."
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan also defended Higgins' statement, saying that the President is "quite entitled to make his views known on the passing of Castro."