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Thursday 30 March 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography Sabina Higgins and President Michael D Higgins pose at City Hall in London today.
# State Visit
Here's everything that happened on day two of Michael D's State visit to the UK
A trip to Downing Street, a meeting with Boris Johnson, another extravagant banquet and several other things the President got up to on day two of his State visit to the UK.

WHILE DAY ONE was all about ceremony, pageantry, and royalty day two of Michael D Higgins’s historic State visit to the UK has been about getting out and about.

A packed schedule saw him meet everyone from Irish nurses in a local hospital to the Prime Minister at Downing Street.

Then it was off to the Guildhall for an extravagant gala dinner in a grand hall which concluded with a shock announcement from the President.

Here’s everything that happened in words, pics, videos and tweets…


Anglo-Irish relations have changed utterly in recent years and this was underscored again this morning when the President was shown the colours of the disbanded Irish Regiments at Windsor Castle by the Duke of York, Prince Andrew. The five regiments were disbanded after the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922.

Pictured is President of Ireland Michael D Higgins Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography / Fennell Photography

Higgins was joined by his wife Sabina, the Tánaiste and his wife Carol Hanney. At one stage the delegation were brought back through Geroge’s Hall – the scene of last night’s State banquet – with the table having being considerably shortened after it was equipped with extra leaves to accommodate the 160 guests.

University College London Hospital

The involvement of Irish people in Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) was celebrated in the event that followed as the President paid a visit to UCL Hospital to meet with some Irish emigrants working there.

University College London Hospial Johnny Bambury / Fennell Photograp Johnny Bambury / Fennell Photograp / Fennell Photograp

The President and his wife were given tour of the Elderly Medicine Ward and the Hyper-Acute Stroke before meeting 20 Irish members of staff from UCLH, including doctors, nurses, consultants and senior managers to thank them for their work and have a chat about the Auld Sod no doubt.

Royal Society 

Then it was off to the Royal Society where Higgins spoke about the contribution Irish people have made to science, and the”productive collaborations” that brought together British and Irish scientists.

He said that in Ireland the contribution of the power of the imagination to our understanding of the natural world had perhaps been overshadowed by achievements in the arts and literature.

PresRoyalSocietyLondon4 Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography / Fennell Photography

He also viewed some items of Irish interest including included chemical notebooks and letters associated with the Irish scientist Robert Boyle, who was a fellow of the Society in the 17th century and items related to one of his predecessors, Eamon De Valera, who was elected as a fellow of the Society in 1968.

Downing Street

Matters got a bit more serious when the President headed for Downing Street and a meeting with the Prime Minister around lunchtime.

After getting a hard time at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in Westminster, Cameron made the journey across to Number 10, fixing the red carpet with his foot on the way in before he was out again a few minutes later to greet Higgins on his arrival.

The pair chatted for a few moments before he guided the President up to the door of No 10 and inside for a chat. It was there that the President noted the fantastic reception he had received over the past two days.

“I am so pleased to be here,” he said.

photo 2 Hugh O'Connell / The President and David Cameron having a chat in No. 10 Downing Street today Hugh O'Connell / /

While the Prime Minister looked glad to be away from the expenses controversy that forced one of his senior ministers to resign this morning.

The pair were joined a short time later by the Tánaiste and William Hague – they having met a few doors down at the Foreign Office – for lunch.

While, the lads were lunching at Number 10, Sabina Higgins visited RADA – the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art – where she said there was no place or profession where she and Michael D were more happy than “with the creative ones”.

She also celebrated Irish fashion and design at the Irish Embassy:

City Hall 

After getting a feed at Number 10 it was off to City Hall where Higgins was joined by his wife Sabina, who headed in a few minutes before her husband.

Higgins arrived to a grand greeting from the London Mayor Boris Johnson. Always a man with a few strange words, Boris started talking about biscuits.

Hugh O'Connell / YouTube

Once inside, it was up to the 9th floor – where the views of London were stunning – to speak at the ‘Take Charge of Change’ a youth event which was also attended by the at this stage well-travelled Tánaiste and the Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villers.

Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald was also there and got this lovely snap in front of the Tower Bridge:

The event was aimed at promoting and celebrating the leadership and contribution of young people in society.

A number of the young people present spoke before the President delivered a speech in which he praised the work of young people who have “undertaken the task of re-thinking, re-imagining and re-structuring the way we live”.

Before the evening’s big event was under way there was a quick meeting with Nick Clegg at Buckingham Palace.

The venue was a room kindly provided by Her Majesty for the sole purpose of a quick handshake and a few words with the embattled Deputy Prime Minister whose Irish counterpart, the now ubiquitous Eamon Gilmore was also there:

Nick Clegg MP Johnny Bambury / Fennell Photograp Johnny Bambury / Fennell Photograp / Fennell Photograp


The evening’s event was by far the most extravagant event of the day and there was a touch of royalty at the Guildhall in central London where 700 people attended a gala dinner, among them the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.

Michael D Higgins and his wife arrived to be greeted by the royalty and the Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf, among others.

Hugh O'Connell / YouTube

The President then inspected the impressively assembled Honourable Artillery Company – who had marched down to the venue – after they played Amhran na bhFiann.

Guests dined on a delicate mousseline of lightly smoked rainbow trout with Dublin Bay prawns, spring rabbit and date ravioli, salt marsh lamb cooked in two different ways and a chocolate bread and butter pudding with Irish whiskey ice cream.

While the Countess of Wessex’s string orchestra provided the music which included the Spanish march, a traditional Irish dance (Lord of the Dance) and a traditional Carroe jig (Trout in the Bath).

In his speech, the President made the rather shock announcement that he would be supporting England in the World Cup this summer in lieu of Ireland’s absence.

Guildhall Banquet Johnny Bambury / Fennell Photography Johnny Bambury / Fennell Photography / Fennell Photography


The remarks came at the end of a speech that noted that the human cost of the financial crisis had been enormous. Returning to a theme that has endured throughout his presidency, he said that the true measure of the recovery will be the opportunities provided to young people.

Guests at tonight’s dinner included Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, former Taoiseach John Bruton and his wife Finola, Terry and Helen Wogan, former boxer Barry McGuigan, former footballer Kevin Moran, designer Orla Kiely and Dublin’s Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn.

The President visits a farm and stables among many other events tomorrow including an Irish-themed concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

Read: Here’s what’s on the menu at tonight’s gala dinner for President Higgins

Yesterday: Here’s everything that’s happened so far on Michael D’s historic State visit to the UK

Read: Follow our State Visit coverage here >

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