Two courageous Irish men who played a vital role in Chile's struggle for independence were honored yesterday with commemorative postal stamps issued in both countries.

One of Chile's founding fathers Bernardo O'Higgins was a supreme ruler of the country and his roots trace back to Co. Sligo where his father was born. John (Juan) MacKenna was born in Co. Monaghan and later went onto serve as a commandant general of the Chilean army.

The 82cent stamps feature both men in full military dress and were unveiled in line with the bicentenary of Chile's independence.

The former Chilean ambassador to Ireland Cecilia Mac Kenna who is a descendant of Juan MacKenna, was the driving force behind the project.

“This is a very special day for me. Today is a culmination of two years of work,” said Ms MacKenna.

The importance of the historical links between Chile and Ireland were emphasized by the current Ambassador Leonel Searle.

“This friendship [of O’Higgins and MacKenna] reminds us of the military courage and visionary spirit of these great men, which will be forever forged in the annals of our country’s history, and the legacy of the strong bonds of friendship and blood ties, between Ireland and Chile,” said Mr Searle.

Barney Whelan, An Phost director of communications said that the issuing of the stamps in the weeks following the Chilean miners rescue made the event more special.

O'Higgins and Mac Kenna traveled to Spain originally for a chance of an education which wouldn't have been available in Ireland. Both men then made the journey to Chile to what was then a Spanish colony.