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Visit by President and Sabina Higgins to the US West Coast, October 2015

President Higgins, accompanied by his wife, Sabina Higgins visited the US West Coast from 21 – 29 October, taking in Seattle, San Francisco and Sacramento.  The official trip also included visits to both Microsoft in Redmond and Google in Mountain View, where the President had an opportunity to meet with significant numbers of Irish staff members.

Visit to Seattle and California,USA by The President of Ireland & Sabina Higgins

The visit also provided an opportunity for the President and Sabina to meet with and thank the first responders, medical staff and volunteers who assisted after the Berkeley tragedy last June. 

During the trip, the President delivered two keynote addresses, one on the role of technology in sustainable development at the University of Washington, Seattle and the second was on global hunger, at the University California, Berkeley.

The official visit began in Seattle, where the President met with Mayor Ed Murray.  The following morning, the President visited Skyline High School, where he watched a demonstration of a Gaelic football match which had been organised by Brendan Hyland, one of the school’s PE teachers.

The President had a number of opportunities to meet with a representative and widespread number of members of the Irish community in Seattle, including at the Seattle Centre for the Arts. The President was delighted to honour, in particular, 94 year old Irish-born priest and broadcaster, Fr. William (Bill) Treacy, a Seattle luminary and founder of the Treacy Levine Reconciliation Centre.

A particular highlight of Seattle was the dinner hosted by Mayor Ed Murray and his husband, Michael Shiosaki at the Chihuly Boathouse, in conjunction with the “Irish Network of Seattle”.

Visit to Seattle and California,USA by The President of Ireland

In San Francisco, the President met with our Emigrant Support partners and cultural and academic partner organisations and leaders of San Francisco's vibrant Irish community, including representatives from the United Cultural Centre; Irish Immigration and Pastoral Centre; Comhaltas Ceoltoiri and the GAA.

Later that day, the President and Sabina were guests of honour at a reception hosted by Consul General Philip Grant at the beautiful and historic Filoli Estate – the 100 year old house and gardens which were inspired by Muckross House in Killarney.  The celebration highlighted the links both old and new between Ireland and the Silicon Valley/San Francisco region.

On the 26th October, the President visited the historic A.C.T. Theatre on Geary Street, where he met with representatives of San Francisco’s arts and cultural community. Afterwards, the President delivered his keynote address at the University of California, Berkeley.  At a reception afterwards, the President and Sabina had an opportunity to view Irish items from the prestigious collection of UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library - including original documents by Seamus Heaney who studied and taught at Berkeley. There were also items related to 1916.

The following day, the President visited Tesla and Google, where he met with Ms. Lorraine Twohill, Chief Managing Officer and up to 100 Irish Google staff.  He also delivered an address at a lunch for key US business contacts, hosted by the IDA and Enterprise Ireland.

Later that afternoon, the President met with the Mayor of San Jose and with representatives of the Irish community in San Jose City Hall. Discussions focussed on the Sister City program between San Jose and Dublin and their plans to mark the 2016 centenary celebrations.

On 28th October, the President attended a reception to pay tribute to the first responders, medical staff and volunteers who were involved in the Berkeley tragedy in June that killed five Irish students, one Irish-American and injured many more.  The President expressed gratitude for how the first responders and volunteers had responded and told them that they had become “pillars” of support.  The President also met privately with George and Jackie Donohoe, whose daughter, Ashley died in the accident.

Following the reception, the President and Mayor Tom Bates of Berkeley planted a tree at the Martin Luther King Civic Centre in memory of those who died.  They each planted an Arbutus tree, which is native to both Ireland and California and one of the most attractive trees in both floras.

Visit to Seattle and California,USA by The President of Ireland

That evening, the President delivered an address at the ‘The Bay Area Council Business Leadership Awards’ where the attendance included Mr. Chuck Feeney, one of Ireland's most generous benefactors.

The official trip concluded on 29 October in Sacramento, where the President met with Mr. Jerry Brown, the Governor of California.

 Visit to Seattle and California,USA by The President of Ireland & Sabina Higgins