You wait ages for a head of state and then three come along ...
HEADS of state seem to be a bit like buses -- they all turn up at the same time.
Prince Albert of Monaco is to make a two-day state visit here next week -- the fourth major world figure expected in Ireland within the space of two months.
His visit comes a week before the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, arrives and ahead of Britain's Queen Elizabeth and US president Barack Obama at the end of May.
The Department of Foreign Affairs last night announced the impending visit of the prince, 50 years after his late father and mother, Prince Rainier III and former Hollywood actress Grace Kelly, were here in 1961.
Prince Albert and his fiancee Charlene Wittstock will attend a series of events in Dublin and Galway between Monday and Wednesday.
It will not be the first time the 52-year-old has visited his mother's ancestral home. Last June, he and Ms Wittstock holidayed on the west coast, taking time out to socialise with locals at Durty Nelly's pub in Bunratty, Co Clare.
Department officials have said the programme for next week's visit will reflect the long-standing ties between Ireland and Monaco and will underline the potential for future co-operation in the areas of business, the environment, research, education, tourism and culture.
President Mary McAleese and her husband Dr Martin McAleese will formally welcome the couple and will host a state dinner in their honour.
Prince Albert will also have meetings with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Environment Minister Phil Hogan and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.
The visit will include trips to Trinity College and the redeveloped docklands area in Dublin and the Irish Marine Institute in Oranmore, Co Galway.
The royal visitor will also inaugurate an exhibition in honour of the late Princess Grace at Farmleigh House, where he will host a reception to highlight Irish literature and art.
During her visit to Ireland half a century ago, Princess Grace also visited Trinity College, where she delivered a talk on WB Yeats. Her grandparents came from Newport in Co Mayo and she was said to have been very proud of her Irish heritage.
Meanwhile, the Dali Lama will arrive on April 13 for two days, at the invitation of a number of charities, the first time he has been here in 20 years.
"It's a private visit, not a state visit, and he won't be meeting any ministers, so the government won't be providing any cars for him or anything," said Neil Steedman, chairman of the Tibet Support Group Ireland.
"He's a man who asks for very little anyway. On his last visit in 1991, he was asked by airline cabin crew what he wanted during his journey and all he asked for was hot water."
The Dalai Lama will give a few talks and make public appearances in Dublin, Limerick and Kildare.
The visits come as gardai and the Defence Forces make preparations for the massive logistical operations which will surround the visit of Queen Elizabeth and President Obama.
Queen Elizabeth will be in Ireland from Tuesday, May 17 to Friday, May 20, while President Obama will be here from Sunday, May 22, to Tuesday, May 24.