Full text of Queen’s speech to State Banquet

The following is the full text of Queen Elizabeth’s speech to the State Banquet in Windsor Castle this evening

President Michael D. Higgins and Queen Elizabeth toast during the banquet held at Windsor Castle this evening. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

President Michael D. Higgins and Queen Elizabeth toast during the banquet held at Windsor Castle this evening. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Tue, Apr 8, 2014, 21:34

Mr. President,

Prince Philip and I are delighted to welcome you and Mrs. Higgins to Windsor Castle.

The Castle was founded by William the Conqueror almost a thousand years ago. And a thousand years ago this very month, across the Irish Sea, Brian Boru, the most celebrated of Ireland’s High Kings, lost his life at the battle of Clontarf. Yet, despite ten centuries of intervening history, Windsor Castle has had to wait until today to see a formal visit to this country by a Head of State of Ireland.

Prince Philip and I recall our visit to Ireland with great pleasure.

We were received warmly wherever we went. Dublin; the city of Cork and its English market; Ireland’s historic landmarks like the Rock of Cashel; your people’s famous hospitality -- and, of course, Ireland’s thoroughbred horses -- all these and much more left a happy and enduring impression.

But even more pleasing, since then, is that we, the Irish and British, are becoming good and dependable neighbours and better friends; finally shedding our inhibitions about seeing the best in each other.

Our two governments have responded to the change in mood. We now cooperate across the full range of public business; indeed, there is today no closer working relationship for my Government than that with Ireland.

This fresh spirit is helping us economically: our trade is growing, supporting many thousands of jobs in both countries, and we are working together to win new business overseas.

As our countries enter a period of historical resonance, it is right to look back in remembrance. In Dublin, I laid wreaths in the Garden of Remembrance for those who died in the cause of Irish freedom and at Islandbridge where Ireland’s dead from the First World War are commemorated.

In August, we will mark solemnly the centenary of Britain’s entry into World War One, calling to mind the terrible toll it took. People from Ireland were involved in all the major campaigns and battles of the war. We will remember and honour their contribution and sacrifice, just as we remember our own.

My family and my government will stand alongside you, Mr. President, and your ministers, throughout the anniversaries of the war and of the events that led to the creation of the Irish Free State.

People have moved freely between these islands over the centuries.

Britain has been hugely enriched by the migration of Irishmen and women to these shores.

The contribution of Irish people to Britain has reached into every walk of British life. On your visit, you are meeting men and women of Irish descent in parliament, in our universities, in our health service, in the civil service, music, faith, business, and sport.

And yet, over the years, many Irish migrants to Britain encountered discrimination and a lack of appreciation. Happily, those days are now behind us, and it is widely recognised that Britain is a better place because of the Irish people who live here. We can celebrate not just the Irish men and women who helped to build Britain but also the Irish architects who helped to design it, including that great architect of parliamentary reform, Daniel O’Connell, whose life and work you will have remembered this afternoon on your visit to Parliament.