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President Michael D Higgins, Martin McGuinness, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in Belfast last year. Paul Faith/PA Wire
State Visit

Broad welcome for President Higgins's planned trip to Britain

Presidents have visited Britain many times in the past – Mary Robinson had tea with Queen Elizabeth in Buckingham Palace – but this will be the first official state visit.

THERE HAS BEEN a broad welcoming of the announcement that President Michael D Higgins is to become the first Irish head of state to make an official visit to Britain.

President Higgins and his wife Sabina will travel to London for a three-day visit in April. They will stay in Windsor Castle, one of the Queen’s official residences.

The visit will take place almost exactly three years after the Queen became the first British monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland on what was seen as an extremely successful official visit. Presidents have visited Britain many times in the past – Mary Robinson had tea with Queen Elizabeth in Buckingham Palace in 1993 – but this will be the first official state visit.

Speaking this morning, Mary Robinson said the announcement brought back many positive memories for her and praised the Queen for her approach to Anglo-Irish affairs.

“I think this is really important symbolism; symbolism matters,” she told RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he warmly welcomed the visit. “This is a further demonstration of the warm and positive relationship that now exists between Ireland and the United Kingdom,” he said last night.

His comments were echoed by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, who said the visit could help to push forward remaining issues in the peace process.

“This event should be a catalyst for the Irish and British governments to implement outstanding elements of the Good Friday and other agreements,” he said. “The process of political change and peace building needs to be advanced urgently. This visit could be a focus for this”.

Separately Eamon Gilmore said the visit was a ‘historic development’.

“The visit will be immensely important for the Irish in Britain,” said the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs. “It marks a further milestone for the peace process in Northern Ireland”.

It reflects an economic, social and cultural relationship that has grown steadily closer. In short, it will bring British-Irish relations to a new level.

The official programme of events will be announced closer to the visit but is likely to include a state banquet hosted by the Queen.

Michael D Higgins has already visited Britain on four occasions since he took office.

Read: President Higgins accepts invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to visit the UK >
Read: “A Úachtaráin agus a chairde” – Queen offers ‘sincere sympathy’ to victims of Anglo-Irish conflict >

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