TÁNAISTE Micheál Martin has begun a four-day trip to South Africa and Mozambique.
Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence landed in Cape Town yesterday, where he began his visit, which is designed to build on existing relationships between the nations.
During his first day, the Tánaiste delivered the inaugural Mary Robinson lecture of the Maxeke-Robinson Irish Studies Chair, which was hosted by the University of the Western Cape.
He also officially opened the office of Irish firm, Kirby Group Engineering in Cape Town, stating: “Since starting in Limerick almost 60 years ago, Kirby’s story is one of transformation into a global leader in construction and engineering.”
He added: “Wishing the staff every success.”
Today is Mandela Day, a global celebration that takes place annually on July 18 - which was Nelson Mandela's birthday - to honour the life and legacy of the former South African President.
The Tánaiste will mark the day by undertaking 67 minutes of service at a community centre, in honour of the “67 years Nelson Mandela spent working for social justice in South Africa” he has confirmed.
"This visit holds special significance for a number of reasons,” Mr Martin said.
“I look forward to marking Mandela Day, where I will be participating in 67 minutes of service at a community centre, in the company of Foreign Minister Pandor, in commemoration of the 67 years Nelson Mandela spent working for social justice in South Africa.”
He added: “In Mozambique, I am particularly looking forward to my visit to the Province of Inhambane, where Ireland has had an active presence on the ground for over 25 years.”
In Mozambique, the Tánaiste will visit Inhambane province, where Ireland has had a presence for a number of years, and meet with partners working in the nutrition, health and education sectors.
Mr Martin is also due to visit a health centre supported through Irish funding to the healthcare system of Mozambique, and a primary school supported through Irish funding to its education sector.
"[In] South Africa and Mozambique, I look forward to building on our excellent relations with both countries, particularly with respect to our political, economic and development relations,” Mr Martin said ahead of the trip.
“South Africa is one of our key partners in Africa, a significant market for Irish exports and home to the largest Irish diaspora on the continent,” he added.
"Mozambique is a close partner where Ireland’s second largest bilateral international development programme is focused.
“While there, I look forward to witnessing first-hand the positive and sustainable difference that Ireland is making to the lives of people in Mozambique."