Higgins says he supports England in World Cup

‘I look ahead two months to Brazil and say that if Ireland cannot be at the World Cup finals, then I will raise a glass to England to go all the way,’ says President

Prince Andrew, Duke of York (not pictured) shows President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Higgins the colours of the disbanded Irish regiments at Windsor Castle yesterday. Photograph:  WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince Andrew, Duke of York (not pictured) shows President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Higgins the colours of the disbanded Irish regiments at Windsor Castle yesterday. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

Thu, Apr 10, 2014, 01:00


No greater love hath an Irish President – even one who supports Chelsea – than to declare his support for England in a World Cup in the cause of amity between nations.

Last night, President Michael D Higgins broke with the “Anybody but England” opinion that has traditionally dominated in Ireland when it comes to the beautiful game.

Dressed in white tie and tails in the Guildhall in London at the end of the second day of his state visit to Britain, Mr Higgins offered “sincere appreciation” for the welcome offered.

“In modest exchange, let me offer something that, coming from the President of Ireland, might seem transformational,” he told the 700 guests.


Raise a glass
“As a follower of the beautiful game, I look ahead two months to Brazil and say that if Ireland cannot be at the World Cup finals, then I will raise a glass to England to go all the way,” he said.

Diplomatically, the Galway United and Chelsea- supporting President acknowledged “there are some in the audience” who might “not be prepared to go quite that far”.

Finishing to applause, he called for a toast to “the gracious lord mayor; to this great city of London; to this great nation of Britain; and to the great friendship between our two peoples”.

In 1609, the plantation of Ulster was first debated by London’s livery companies “on lands recently seized from Gaelic chieftains”, followed by the construction of Ireland’s first planned city.

The people of that city, Derry/Londonderry “have lived through many of the most tragic and contentious events of our shared history” – a city that last year celebrated being UK’s city of culture.

That “stands as a symbol of the profound transformation of the relationship between our countries – from colonisation and conflict to partnership and friendship.”

Ireland and Britain now “recognise and celebrate boundless possibilities” on the back of the changes brought about in Northern Ireland.

Paying tribute for the help given by the British government at the height of Ireland’s economic crisis in 2010, Mr Higgins said Ireland was deeply grateful for the support.