President of Ireland visits Christchurch Earthquake National Memorial

Christchurch, Earthquake
He is the first head of state to visit the memorial since its unveiling. Photo credit: Emma Cropper/Newshub

The President of Ireland became the first head of state to visit the Christchurch Earthquake National Memorial along the Avon River when he touched down in the Garden City on Thursday afternoon.

President Michael D Higgins arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday and met with newly sworn-in Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, beginning his week-long visit.

Wellington, Ireland
President Higgins arriving at Parliament in Wellington. Photo credit: Getty

President Higgins laid a wreath paying respect to the two Irish nationals and other 183 victims who died in the eartquake.

Irish national John Joseph O'Connor, 40, died in the Pyne Gould Cooperation building that collapsed to during the February 22 earthquake.

Christchurch, Ireland
President Higgins laid a wreath out of respect for the victims. Photo credit: Emma Cropper/Newshub

Media reported at the time Mr O'Connor arrived in New Zealand in September 2010 to start a new life in Christchurch.

Lions, Christchurch
Mr O'Connor's wife Sarah and children Dan and Sean, with British and Irish Lions tour manager John Spencer during their tour in 2017. Photo credit: Getty

Irish-born Owen McKenna, 40, was a father of two and it has been reported he moved to New Zealand six years before the quake.

The family of both Mr O'Connor and Mr McKenna are expected to visit the memorial site with the President.

The Christchurch Earthquake National Memorial, which remembers all victims of the 2011 disaster, was unveiled earlier this year on the sixth anniversary of the quakes.

Christchurch, Earthquake
Wreaths were laid at the unveiling of the memorial. Photo credit: Ōtākaro Limited

The opening was attended by then Prime Minister Bill English, former Christchurch Mayor Sir Bob Parker and other dignitaries including families of victims from overseas.

The Irish first couple head to Auckland on Friday, Waitangi on Saturday and back to Auckland on Sunday before leaving the country.


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