INDEPENDENT TD Shane Ross has apologised to President Michael D Higgins for a tongue-in-cheek ‘Christopher Robin’ comment about the first official visit by an Irish head of state to Britain.
President Michael D Higgins will become the first President to visit Queen Elizabeth in Britain.
Following her historic visit to Ireland two years ago - when Mary McAleese was president - the queen has now formally invited the President and his wife Sabina for a return visit.
President Higgins will stay at Windsor Castle from April 8 to 10.
But shortly after the announcement of the historic state visit last night, Mr Ross took to Twitter to make a string of bizarre comments on the move.
“So Michael D is off to see the Queen. Just like Christopher Robin. He will do us proud staying in Windsor Castle,” he wrote. “What would Dev think?”
He followed that up with another tweet: “Bet Michael D follows state visit to Queen by summons Dail for state of nation speech. Mary Robinson did. Hope he won’t read us his poetry.”
However, the Dublin South TD responded quickly to the messages with a third tweet which read: “That was disrespectful to both Queen and President. Apologies to Aras an Uachtarain. He is a great President. I love him dearly.”
Mr Ross did not respond to queries earlier today.
Buckingham Palace revealed that 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, and will meet opposition leaders at Westminster and the Lord Mayor of London.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he warmly welcomed confirmation that President Higgins will pay an official visit to the UK.
He said: “This is a further demonstration of the warm and positive relationship that now exists between Ireland and the United Kingdom.
“The State visit in April, following on from the very successful visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth in 2011, will be a wonderful opportunity to deepen this even further.”
President Higgins has met members of the royal family on a number of occasions, including the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Belfast's Lyric Theatre last year and Princess Anne at the Ireland versus Scotland rugby match last year.
He also 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 official trips. Neither were the numerous visits undertaken by former Presidents Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson.
In a brief statement last night, the Aras announced the State visit and the dates.
It said: “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 Aras an Uachtarain 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 and the peace process.
A concert will likely be held to mark the occasion.