President hopes visits between countries will become regular

Taoiseach raises prospect of royal visit to Ireland for Easter Rising centenary

 President Michael D Higgins and  his wife Sabina ,  who leave for a state visit to Britain today.

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina , who leave for a state visit to Britain today.

Mon, Apr 7, 2014, 01:00

President Michael D Higgins has said on the eve of the first state visit to Britain that he hopes such visits would become “frequent and regular” in respect of both states. Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina will be accompanied by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore when they fly to London today. Taoiseach Enda Kenny will join them there tomorrow after the weekly meeting of the Cabinet.

The President said yesterday that the busy itinerary pointed to “the enthusiasm and generosity of our hosts and an expression of the importance of the visit”. He also said at the weekend he had been “very moved” by the recent Buckingham Palace reception for the Irish in Britain. “This is really the opening of a whole new chapter in our relationship,” he said.

Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh will formally greet Mr Higgins and Sabina tomorrow. They will travel together by horse-drawn carriage for a ceremonial welcome at Windsor Castle.

Mr Kenny said yesterday he did not see why Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness should not attend a banquet the queen will host at the castle in honour of Mr Higgins. “This is all part of the building of relationships between the two countries and peoples on both sides of a divide,” the Taoiseach told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC television.

He also raised the prospect of a royal visit to Ireland at the time of the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. “It should be possible for members of the royal family to visit Dublin during those centenary commemoration ceremonies in 2016. It would be another event in the continuing closeness and closer relationship between both our countries,” Mr Kenny said.

“We’ve got to move on and not be blocked by the past. The queen herself spoke in Dublin Castle, which was the symbolic head of the British empire in this country for several hundred years. She said if you looked at history, there were some things you might do differently and some things you might not do at all, and her contribution in Dublin three years ago closed a circle of history.”

Mr Kenny stays overnight in Britain tomorrow. He returns to Ireland on Wednesday for scheduled business but travels to Britain for the remainder of the state visit on Thursday.

As Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Gilmore will be the accompanying Minister for the duration of the visit. The Tánaiste will also meet foreign secretary William Hague for discussions on issues of international concern, particularly the situation in Ukraine. “The very detailed and personal nature of this visit reflects the depth and substance of the relationship between our two countries,” Mr Gilmore said.