The Irish role in Chilean Independence

28/10/2010

Stamps celebrate Irish role in Chilean Independence

An Post and Chilean Post Office jointly issue Irish-designed stamps

Two Irishmen who played a central part in Chile’s struggle for independence were celebrated with the simultaneous issue in Ireland and Chile of two new stamps by Irish artist Ms Ger Garland today (Thursday).

Bernardo O’Higgins and John (Juan) MacKenna played a crucial role in Chile’s drive for Independence. O’Higgins is regarded as the Liberator of Chile. He is widely celebrated by the Chilean nation and a monument to him stands in Dublin’s Merrion Square.  MacKenna, from Monaghan, was Commandant-General of the Chilean army.

The two 82c stamps are being issued in the context of the bi-centenary of Chile’s independence and feature representations of each man in full military dress.

Speaking at the GPO, An Post Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs, Barney Whelan said that the timing of the stamp issue so soon after the release of the Chilean miners made the event even more special as we celebrate their bravery and perseverance in the face of extreme adversity. “The people of Chile can be justifiably proud of the nation they built with the help of MacKenna and O’Higgins. We can be proud that these two heroes were sons of Ireland.’’

Chilean Ambassador, Leonel Searle,  said “the recent events that occurred in Chile have shown the world the spirit of unity and courage to follow with conviction an ideal and strong sense of solidarity. That is the character which national heroes such as those we honour today, forged into the country’s collective consciousness. They were never found wanting when our Nation demanded sacrifices and renunciations to achieve their goals”.

Bernardo O’Higgins was one of the founding fathers of Chile. The son of the Irish-born Governor of Chile, he was a leading figure in the movement to overthrow the ruling Spanish administration. He was the first head of state of the independent Chile.

MacKenna was a key military figure and was for a time Commandant-General of O’Higgins’ army. He is credited with a famous victory over superior forces at Membrillo. After a coup d’état in 1814 he was exiled to Argentina and died in a duel in Buenos Aires.

The stamp set and a specially commissioned first day cover (FDC) is available online and at main post offices.  This is An Post’s first ‘Joint Issue’ with a South American country, whereby both countries simultaneously issue the same stamp designs marking an event of shared significance, in their own currency. This milestone is an indication of the greatness of these two ‘sons of Ireland’ and of the importance of the events in which they were central participants.

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