President Michael D Higgins has begun a three-day official visit to the northwest of England.

This is his first visit to the region since his inauguration.

It is an area he is already familiar with, having lived in Manchester for a time during the late 1960s.

This afternoon, President Higgins met Liverpool Lord Mayor Sharon Sullivan and her Deputy Mayor Gary Millar before laying a wreath at the Irish Famine Memorial in the city centre.

This evening, he delivered the John Kennedy Lecture 'Liverpool and its Irish Migrants' at the Institute of Irish Studies in the University of Liverpool.

It is estimated around two-thirds of Liverpool city’s population claim to have Irish roots.

President Higgins has previously said he wanted to use his term in office to reach out to the diaspora, and this visit is primarily focused on doing that.

Speaking in Liverpool, President Higgins rejected suggestions that Ireland's reputation around the world has been damaged by the Savita Halappanavar controversy.

Her husband, Praveen, is battling the Government and health chiefs to hold a public inquiry into her death, which he claims happened after she was denied an abortion on medical grounds.

"I think that what is very important and what is very moving to me as president is to see the enormous response among the Irish public to the sad death of the wonderful Savita and how tragic it all is," Mr Higgins said.

"My wish, frankly, is that there be some form of investigation which meets the needs of the concerned public and meets the needs of the family and meets the need of the State."

Mr Higgins, who is being accompanied by his wife Sabina, will travel to Manchester tomorrow.