Skip to main content

20/07/13 12:50

President of Ireland visits Iona

Links celebrated on 1,450th anniversary of St Columba’s arrival.

Scotland’s Culture and External Affairs Secretary, Fiona Hyslop today welcomed the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins to Iona, to commemorate the 1,450th anniversary of Colmcille/ St.Columba and his disciples’ arrival on the island.

The day-long event will also celebrate Ireland and Scotland’s shared history and language. It has been organised by Peadar O’Riada, leader of Irish choir, Cór Cúil Aodhathe, and the members of the Iona Community – the dispersed Christian ecumenical community who’s work and teachings is centred on Iona Abbey and the Island.

On welcoming President Higgins to Iona, Ms Hyslop said:

“It’s my privilege to welcome President Higgins to this beautiful island today, not least because it is a fitting way to celebrate Scotland’s excellent links with our Irish neighbours - something which the Scottish Government wishes to continue and strengthen.

“St Columba’s journey to Iona is just one of the many events which have created our strong bond with Ireland and it’s important that we recognise and celebrate the continuing significance of this remarkable man and the community he founded.

“The Scottish Government continues to recognise and value the substantial and enduring work of the Iona Community and the role it plays as part of Scotland’s diverse faith and belief communities. Groups like these are important for enriching Scotland socially, culturally and economically and for transforming and inspiring Scotland’s people and culture.”

While on the island Ms Hyslop and President Higgins will attend an ecumenical service at the famous Iona Abbey which will include a performance from the long psalm singers from The Isle of Lewis.

President Higgins delivered a speech entitled "Of Migrants and Migration ". He said:

“Sabina and I are truly delighted that the members of this community, in this most unique location, have afforded us the opportunity to spend a little time here with you. We are very pleased too, at the prospect of sharing this day with some of my longstanding and dearest friends.

“I am so very pleased that Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs and Culture, Fiona Hyslop has travelled to join us. I have known Mike Russell, now the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning here in Scotland, for almost thirty years. It is a pleasure and an honour to share a platform with him also today.

“Those of you here who know me, know that those two words: “Education” and “Culture” encompass much of what is very close to my heart.

“Sabina and I are happy to be on this sacred island - a place of learning and of cultural richness, which has always retained its own very special local identity.

“Far beyond anything I have to say here today, I am most interested in hearing the words of others – as to what it is like, what has flowed from the experience of living in this extraordinary place of inter-faith living? What they may wish to reveal as to the difference Iona, past or present has made to your beliefs and thoughts?”

Currently Historic Scotland is investing in the visitor experience at the Abbey through a major representation of the historic landmark and a new admissions building, which will open this summer.

Notes to editors

President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina are attending this event following a personal invite from Peadar O’Riada.

Photos from President Higgin’s visit to Iona will be sent to picture desks at around 1400 BST today. Ms Hyslop’s speech will be available online from the same time at

President Higgin’s speech will be available at . Enquiries should be addressed to +353 87 906 4331

For more information on the Iona Community go to

Visit the official Historic Scotland website dedicated to Iona Abbey at