IRISH President Michael D. Higgins has praised the work of Irish community groups in Glasgow, which he said creates unbreakable bonds between the two nations.
President Higgins and his wife, Sabina Higgins, are visiting Scotland this week and started their three-day tour today, June 27, with a meeting with Irish community groups at Govanhill Neighbourhood Centre in Glasgow.
Speaking at Govanhill Neighbourhood Centre, President Higgins spoke of how the community had helped to overcome religious and sectarian divides.
"Religious and sectarian divisions have thrown their shadow of prejudice, resentment and misunderstanding across the many positive aspects of the unity between our two nations," he said. "Thankfully there are many men and women who have worked, and continue to work, tirelessly to ensure that our relationship can flourish in an environment of peace, harmony and reconciliation."
He added: "By being part of organisations that maintain the traditions of our Irish language, music or national games, or by working with the more vulnerable members of the Irish community here in Scotland, you continue to create unbreakable bonds between our two nations; bonds founded on generosity and real citizen participation.
Speaking about the connection the two countries shared through sport, President Higgins said: "I cannot speak in Glasgow without acknowledging the special place that Celtic has in the hearts of so many Irish football fans, but in recent years, thanks to welcome changes in policy, we have also seen Irish players make their name at many other Scottish clubs also."
He concluded the speech by saying that both nations can be "proud of a shared culture that created many famous Irish-Scots" such as James Connolly, who was born in Edinburgh, and Margaret Skinnider from Coatsbridge, who fought during the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.
A meeting with First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, followed the visit to Govanhill Neighbourhood Centre.
This evening the Presidential couple will attend a cultural event, Ceangal in celebration of Ireland and Scotland.
Tomorrow, June 28, they will go to Edinburgh where President Higgins will be awarded an Honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at the University of Edinburgh before meeting with Professor Sir Timothy O'Shea, the university's principal and vice chancellor.
On Wednesday, June 29, President Higgins will address Members of the Scottish Parliament in the Parliament Chamber at Holyrood.
He will also attend and speak at symposium on Irish history at the University of Edinburgh later that day.
This is President Higgins' second official visit Scotland - the first visit took place in 2013 where he attended commemorations for the 1450th anniversary of the establishment of the monastery of St. Colmcille.