President Michael D. Higgins has expressed thanks to British prime minister David Cameron for "the incredible reception" that he has received during the first two days of his State visit to Britain.
Mr Higgins and his party arrived at No. 10 Downing Street shortly after 1.30 pm for lunch with the prime minister, following a speech in the Royal Society and an earlier meeting with Irish staff working in the National Health Service.
Mr Cameron was at the front-door and walked to Mr Higgins's Crown-supplied Bentley, adorned by the tricolour, warmly welcoming the president, before the two men and other members of the Irish delegation entered.
Inside, Mr Cameron and President Higgins sat in armchairs for photographs and brief words, where Mr Cameron extended “an extremely warm welcome, Mr President”, adding: “ It is really remarkable how Anglo-Irish relations have not only been transformed but I see them on a ever-increasing gradient.
"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 said last night, keep on with the work of reconciliation, including in Northern Ireland.
"It is wonderful the visit that you are making, it builds on Her Majesty's excellent and remarkable visit of 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," he declared.
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.”
“I think that our indigenous sector exporting as it does 40 per cent of its produce to Britain and equally Ireland being’s Britain’s fifth best customer. It is very important in trade. During the visit, I have just come from the Royal Society, over the years Irish science, Irish technology, Irish culture, Ireland’s presence in the English language, all the things that we have done together.”
“I think Her Majesty’s speech last night and mine emphasised in a way that our proximity that has sometimes stopped us from seeing the richness in each other. But I hope that the visit will enable great opportunities for the deepening of the peace process that we have, that requires our continuing vigilance. As head of state I am so pleased to say thank you as well for the incredible reception that I have received. I had an opportunity of expressing to Her Majesty last night my gratitude for the reception for the Irish community in anticipation of my visit. I am so pleased to be here, prime minister and I wish you well as I wish the head of the Irish government well in your co-operation advancing on these issues.”