President's delight at his 'warm' invite to meet queen
President Michael D Higgins has described his state visit to Britain next year as "very significant".
Mr Higgins will become the first Irish head of state to make an official visit to Britain next year.
He and his wife Sabina will stay at Windsor Castle from April 8 to 10.
Queen Elizabeth will host a state banquet for the Mr Higgins, where both of them will deliver speeches.
Speaking for the first time about the visit, he said: "I think it is very significant now at this time in both an international and a European context.
"I very much appreciate both the warmth of the invitation itself and the manner in which it was conveyed to me.
"I think it will be a very warm visit . . . Sabina and I are very much looking forward to the visit next April.
"It's just a wonderful opportunity to move into this new relationship that we have of peace and mutual respect. It's a celebration of things we do together.
"I imagine it will be particularly important to the Irish community in Britain but also to others," he said.
Mr Higgins will also hold a formal meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The programme for the visit has yet to be finalised, but Mr Higgins gave some hint of what elements it may contain.
"The connections between our peoples are ones that are multi-layered, not just in politics and obviously trade, there are connections in sport, theatre, the arts and culture.
"I'm sure the structure of the visit will be looking at some of these different dimensions," he said.
The visit will take place almost three years after the British monarch's historic visit to the Republic in May 2011, and since that event Mr Higgins has met several members of the royal family, including the Duke of Edinburgh.
Mr Higgins was speaking before he delivered an address on 'The Worthiness of the Arts in the 21st Century' to the Trinity College Historical Society, where he was presented with a gold medal.