Ireland welcomes China’s next leader

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Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping has touched down in Ireland for a three-day official visit.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore greeted the 58-year-old, who arrived yesterday at Shannon Airport after a five-day trip to the USA.

Xi, China’s leader-in-waiting, is expected to confirm a number of “door-opening” agreements to boost trade with Ireland.

Both Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny are, however, under pressure to tackle Xi on China’s human rights record.

Amnesty International has branded the country the world’s number one executioner and warned its treatment of activists is appalling.

The vice-president’s trip will begin with a briefing at Shannon Development business park, Ireland’s only dedicated regional development company, before he and his 150-strong delegation attend a medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle in County Clare.

Tomorrow, Xi will visit a dairy farm in Limerick and the Cliffs of Moher in Clare before flying to Dublin, visiting Croke Park and seeing a special performance of Riverdance. He will leave tomorrow night.

Dr Vincent Cunnane, Shannon Development chief executive, said “China has a population of over 1.3 billion which represents 20 per cent of the world’s population.

That the Chinese vice-president is spending almost three days in Ireland is a major boost for the country.”