Higgins tells Cameron he’s ‘absolutely delighted’ to be in UK

President Higgins is attending a banquet at the Guildhall in London this evening

President Michael D Higgins joined prime minister David Cameron for lunch on the second day of his state visit to Britain today.

Wed, Apr 9, 2014, 21:55

President Michael D Higgins joined prime minister David Cameron for lunch on the second day of his state visit to Britain today.

At 10 Downing Street, Mr Cameron extended “an extremely warm welcome” to the President.

“It is really remarkable how Anglo-Irish relations have not only been transformed but I see them on a ever-increasing gradient,” Mr Cameron said.

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“I am really excited by the things that we are now doing together, two countries and two governments.

“I am excited by some of the new projects that we are talking about. But we must, as you said last night and Her Majesty [Queen Elizabeth] said last night, keep on with the work of reconciliation, including in Northern Ireland. ”

Mr Cameron said the visit built on the queen’s “excellent and remarkable visit” to Ireland three years ago.

“It is a real privilege to be prime minister of the United Kingdom at a time when Anglo-Irish relations are on such an up.

“I am determined to do what I can and I know that the Taoiseach is as well to do what we can to play our part in building this very special partnership between two countries that are now not just neighbours, but really good friends and deep friends.”

Replying, the President said he was “absolutely delighted to be here and to be making this historic visit”, saying that Anglo-Irish relations are enjoying “ a great deepening kind of co-operation that is very important. It is obviously there in trade and the economy.”

Mr Higgins is attending a banquet in the Guildhall in London this evening.

The President’s itinerary opened this morning with an event to mark the contribution of Irish people to the National Health Service. He was also scheduled to meet the mayor of London Boris Johnson.

A private but nonetheless significant engagement took place at the start of the day when the Duke of York showed the president the colours of the six disbanded Irish regiments which have been preserved in Windsor since 1922.

Along the Grand Stairs of the castle, the queen’s home, Mr Higgins inspected a piece of history in safekeeping for 92 years at the behest of King George V after 200,000 Irish men enlisted to fight for the Crown.

The regimental flags of the Royal Irish Regiment, the Connaught Rangers, the Leinster Regiment, the Royal Munster Fusiliers, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and cavalry unit the South Irish Horse will be shown to the president.

The castle was the setting for a historic state banquet in Mr Higgins’s honour yesterday where the queen said that Britain and Ireland shall “no longer allow our past to ensnare our future”.