UK & World News

  • 8 April 2014, 10:04

Irish President Makes Historic State Visit

Irish President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina will be guests of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle.

The two heads of state have met informally but President Higgins's official welcome includes all the traditional pomp and circumstance.

He will participate in a ceremonial carriage procession, address members of both Houses of Parliament and attend a state banquet.

The guest list includes the British and Irish Prime Ministers and the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland.

It will be the second time Her Majesty has shaken hands with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, a former IRA leader.

The historic visit comes three years after the Queen became the first British monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland.

Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said: "It is becoming a model relationship between two neighbouring countries. We are very close, respectful neighbours and I think the relationship we are building and working on is one that, given our very complex history, many people throughout the world will be able to draw some inspiration from."

The Queen spoke in Irish and commemorated those who had fought for freedom during her ground-breaking tour.

President Higgins will reciprocate by honouring Britain's war dead at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.

The head of state, a former arts and culture minister, will attend an Irish concert in the Royal Albert Hall.

Professor Deirdre Heenan, who serves on the president's Council of State, said: "It's about promoting good relations but it's also about saying to the world that we're actually more interested in our commonality, our common love of culture, politics and our common economic interests rather than the focus which would generally have been what divides us."

Michael D Higgins is Ireland's ninth president, having succeeded President Mary McAleese when she retired from office in November 2011.

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