President meets lambs, pigs and horses on third day of state visit

Sabina Higgins snuggles newborn animal as couple goes to Oxfordshire farm

 President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina meeting Ian and Anna-Lisa Balding at Park House Stables, Kingsclere, Newbury as part of the state visit of President Higgins to Britain. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina meeting Ian and Anna-Lisa Balding at Park House Stables, Kingsclere, Newbury as part of the state visit of President Higgins to Britain. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Thu, Apr 10, 2014, 14:04

President Michael D Higgins’ wife, Sabina snuggled a newly-born lamb close this morning on a 1,850 acre Oxfordshire farm, on the opening of the third day of the President’s state visit to Britain.

The farm is run by the agricultural research body, Food Animal Initative, which is working with companies such as McDonalds to improve animal husbandry and sustainability.

President and Mrs Higgins also viewed pigs at the enclosures,where Mrs Higgins spoke with knowledge about pigs: “They remember their ground, rooting it out, it’s in their genes”.

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The President and Mrs Higgins were met by Brigadier Nigel Mogg, the queen’s Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire and British Minister of State for Agriculture, George Eustice MP.

Mr Higgins had expressed an interest in visiting the farm, said An Bord Bia chief executive, Aidan Cotter, who gave a briefing on Bord Bia’s quality assurance programme,Origin Ireland.

The outdoor theme has continued this afternoon as President and Mrs Higgins visited the Park Stables at Newbury where they are meeting trainers, jockeys and other staff.

This afternoon Queen Elizabeth will host a Northern-Ireland themed reception at Windsor Castle.

Glen Hansard, Paul Brady and Imelda May will be among the special guest at an Irish cultural event, Celliuradh, tonight in the Royal Albert Hall. The queen will be represented by Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Also participating will be Fiona Shaw, Olivia O’Leary and Joseph O’Connor.

The highlight of the second day of Mr Higgins’ visit yesterday was the news that the Government will invite a senior member of the British royal family to attend commemorations in Dublin in two years to mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny welcomed the queen’s “endorsement” for a royal presence at the GPO commemoration, though final decisions will not be a taken for at least a year.

However, he said he was “very pleased” to hear the queen’s declaration that “my family and government” would “stand alongside” Ireland during the upcoming commemorations.

In a speech to 700 guests in the Guildhall in London last night Mr Higgins emphasised the economic ties that now bind the two countries.

Ireland and the United Kingdom can enjoy a era of “boundless possibilities”, Mr Higgins said on the back of political change that would have “unimaginable” just a few years ago.

“The intertwined histories of Ireland and Britain have indeed known great turbulence, but we meet at a time when the relationship between us has never been more friendly or respectful,” he said.

The guest list included Greencore chief executive, Patrick Coveney; Aer Lingus chief executive, Christoph Mueller, along with broadcaster, Terry Wogan.

The cultural, economic and social links now “flow so evenly and naturally” between Britain and Ireland that we “may underestimate their significance”, he said.

Dressed in white tie and tails in the Guildhall in London, 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.

“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.