President Higgins to make historic first UK visit
Michael D Higgins to become first Irish head of state to make official visit to the UK
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins will become the first President to make an official state visit to Britain next year.
Following her historic visit to Ireland two years ago, Queen Elizabeth II formally invited the President and his wife Sabina for a return visit.
President Higgins will stay at Windsor Castle from April 8 to 10.
The Queen will host a state banquet for the President, where both heads of state will make speeches.
The President will also hold a formal meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
He will also meet opposition party leaders at Westminster and the Lord Mayor of London.
Following on from the Queen’s visit to this country in May 2011, President Higgins has met members of the royal family on a number of occasions.
The President met the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in June last year at Belfast's Lyric Theatre.
He also met with the Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, at the Ireland versus Scotland rugby match last year and he hosted the monarch’s first cousin, the Duke of Kent, this year at Aras an Uachtarain.
The President has already made five trips to Britain, visiting London, Manchester, Liverpool and the Iona in Scotland.
However, none of these were not official visits.
Neither were the numerous visits undertaken by former President’s Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson.
Welcoming confirmation of the official visit, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was a “further demonstration of the warm and positive relationship that now exists” between the two countries.
“The State Visit in April, following on the very successful visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth in 2011, will be a wonderful opportunity to deepen this relationship even further,” he said.
In a brief statement last night, the Aras announced the state visit and the dates next April.
“President Michael D. Higgins is very pleased to accept an invitation from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to visit the United Kingdom from 8-10 April, 2014.
“The President will be accompanied on the State Visit by Mrs Sabina Higgins and the details of the programme will in due course be announced jointly by Áras an Uachtaráin and Buckingham Palace.
The programme for the visit is expected to reflect the political, economic and cultural relations between Ireland and Britain, with a particular focus on Northern Ireland.
A concert will likely be held to mark the occasion.
During the Queen's visit to Ireland, an event at the National Convention Centre featured performances by The Chieftains, Westlife, X-Factor singer Mary Byrne and Riverdance.
By Fionnan Sheahan