Irish president visits Bay Area, plans to honor 6 Irish students killed

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Irish President Michael Higgins visited UC Berkeley Monday evening to talk about his vision to end global poverty. ABC7 News spoke with him and found out he is also going to visit with Gov. Jerry Brown.

However, the most emotional part of his trip will be when he visits the site in Berkeley where six Irish students were killed when an apartment balcony collapsed this summer.

Higgins said, "It was an unspeakable tragedy. People were in the flower of their youth, looking forward to long and happy lives."

The lives of a group of Irish students were cut short when the balcony they were on gave way beneath their feet.

At the site of the June balcony collapse, Higgins will help plant two trees in a living tribute to the victims. He will also meet with first responders who were there.

"We were all so struck in Ireland by the rapidity the response... and they were wonderful," Higgins said.

The President's West Coast visit also includes stops in Seattle and Sacramento. Monday, he had lunch with members of San Francisco's arts community at the historic Geary Theater. They talked about education and how to keep art thriving in a city booming with tech.

Artistic Director of the American Conservatory Theater Carey Perloff said, "We talked a lot about artist housing. What it is to create affordable housing to keep artists in a city."

President Higgins is a writer, poet and human rights activist. He gave a keynote speech at UC Berkeley, hoping to inspire the younger generation to work toward ending world hunger, poverty and pay inequality.

Higgins will spend the next two days in the Bay Area. On Tuesday, he will visit Tesla and meet its founder Elon Musk. Then he is scheduled to stop by Google and speak with 100 Irish Google staff based in the Bay Area. Later in the afternoon, he'll meet with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo at city hall. On Wednesday, Higgins will attend a reception for first responders and volunteers who helped during the Berkeley balcony collapse.

PHOTOS: Several killed in balcony collapse in Berkeley
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