Her Majesty The Queen has formally invited the President of the Republic of Ireland, Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina, to stay with the her at Windsor Castle next April for a State Visit to the UK. He will become the first Irish head of state to make an official state visit to the United Kingdom.
Aras an Uachtarain, the President’s official residence in Dublin, has confirmed that the couple have accepted The Queen’s invitation to visit on 8th-10th April next year. This three day state visit follows Her Majesty’s successful visit to Ireland in May 2011. In this visit, The Queen paid her respects to the dead at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance, visited Croke Park the site of the 1920 Bloody Sunday massacre, and made a speech on Anglo-Irish history at Dublin Castle.
This was seen as an historic moment and some say that this was a pivotal moment in Anglo-Irish relations. The Monarch was invited by former president Mary McAleese, whose successor will now visit the UK in April next year.
Both Mr Higgins and his wife met The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh last year at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre. He also met the Princess Royal at a sporting event and the Duke of Kent paid him a visit earlier this year at Aras an Uachtarain.
Mr Higgins has visited the UK many times before however, these were not official state visits. In addition, when the former President, Mary McAleese her predecessor Mary Robinson met the royals, these were not official visits.
The plans for the President’s visit has not yet been confirmed but it is widely expected that he will stay in Windsor Castle and pay offical visits to Number 10 Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister, David Cameron and the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Milliband. The Lord Mayor of London is also anticipated to host a banquet for Mr Higgins as in line with other state visits to the UK.
A concert may also be held for the President as when Her Majesty visited Dublin, she was entertained by Westlife, Mary Byrne, The Chieftains and Riverdance.
Sources say that this visit will highlight political, economic and cultural relations between the UK and Ireland.
Providing that they are not on the much-speculated tour of New Zealand and Australia in April, it could be the first occasion during which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge make an appearance at the State Banquet, always held on the first night of the state visit. Neither William nor his wife Catherine have attended a state banquet before.