Higgins says Ireland and the UK have ‘gained strength’ from one another
President Higgins and Queen Elizabeth address State Banquet at Windsor Castle
Ireland and Britain have gained strength living “in both the shadow and in the shelter of one another” through the years, President Michael D Higgins told a State Banquet at Windsor Castle this evening.
Mr Higgins said this first state visit of a President of Ireland to the United Kingdom “was a very visible sign of the warmth and maturity of the relationship between our two countries” and marked a transformation in relations.
“Through conquest and resistance, we have cast shadows on each other, but we have also gained strength from one another as neighbours and, most especially, from the contribution of those who have travelled between our islands in recent decades,” he said.
“While the past must be respectfully recognised it must not imperil the potential of the present or the possibilities of the future,” he said.
“We must, however, never forget those who died, were bereaved, or injured, during the tragic conflict.”
Mr Higgin said the warm welcome he had received was “very deeply felt and appreciated”.
He said despite the length of time it took for the visit to happen, it was a sign of the warmth and maturity of the relationship between Ireland and Britain.
“We have moved on from the past where our relations were often troubled,” Mr Higgins.
“While we grieve together for lost lives, we will not let any painful aspect of our shared history deflect us from crafting a future that offers hope and opportunity for the British and Irish people.”
In his toast he said: “To valued neighbours whose friendship we truly cherish”.
In her speech, Queen Elizabeth said she recalled her 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,” she said.
“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.”
She said Britain had been had been hugely enriched by the migration of Irishmen and women to these shores.
She invited guests to raise a toast to the President and Mrs. Higgins and to the health and prosperity of the people of Ireland.
The 160 guests, who include Taoiseach Enda Kenny, former president Mary McAleese and British prime minister David Cameron, will dine on fillet of Isle of Gigha halibut with young leeks and fine herb sauce.
For the main course they will eat tornadoes of Windsor estate beef with wild mushrooms and water cress puree, served with purple sprouting broccoli and sauce hollandaise, baked onions stuffed with parmesan and bulghar wheat
For dessert guests will have vanilla ice-cream bombe with Balmoral redcurrant centre.
The tables are decorated with candelabras and flowers and foliage — including Bells of Ireland, a green flower — with shades of orange and white to represent the Irish colours.
Guests will be entertained by an orchestra.
Earlier, Mr Higgins said Ireland and Britain have achieved a closeness and warmth “that once seemed unachievable”.
In the first address by an Irish head of State to MPs and Lords at the Houses of Parliament Mr Higgins said the people of Ireland greatly cherish the political independence that was secured in 1922 - “an independence which was fought for by my father and many of his generation.”