The President of the Republic of Ireland, Michael Higgins, arrived at Heathrow Airport this evening, and was welcomed by Ambassador Dan Mulhall and his wife Greta at the start of a historic four-day visit to the United Kingdom. The Queen will host the President and his wife, Sabina, at Windsor Castle for the duration of their visit.
President Higgins is the first Irish president in history to visit the UK in an official capacity. On Tuesday morning, he will be met by The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at the Irish Embassy, before travelling together to Windsor Castle. His visit comes three years after Her Majesty paid a visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011, making her the first British monarch to do so.
The last visit to Ireland by a British monarch was when The Queen’s grandfather, King George V, visited in 1911, a time when Ireland was still a part of the United Kingdom. It was during his reign that the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was issued, leading to the partition of Ireland. In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement was signed between the two nations to settle terrorist disputes.
The Queen’s visit was symbolic, as it was seen as the normalisation of relations between Ireland and the UK, and it helped greatly in improving the diplomatic relations between the two countries. President Higgins’s reciprocal to Her Majesty’s visit will only be further progress in the improvement of Anglo-Irish relations.
The Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, said about the State Visit:
“I warmly welcome the official confirmation that President Higgins will pay an official visit to the United Kingdom. This is a further demonstration of the warm and positive relationship that now exists between Ireland and the United Kingdom. The state visit in April, following on the very successful visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth in 2011, will be a wonderful opportunity to deepen this even further.”
As is tradition, the State Visit will begin with a ceremonial welcome and carriage procession, followed by a State banquet at which both Heads of State will make a speech. There is usually an exchange of gifts, and the visiting leader will meet the Prime Minister and leader of the opposition.
Typically, they also lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, a tradition started by The Queen Mother, followed by yet another banquet in the city of London. In the duration of his visit, the President will meet members of the Irish community living and working in Britain.
President Higgins, a former arts minister, has previously met Her Majesty and Prince Philip at Belfast’s Lyric Theater in 2012. His visit is expected to last four days, until the 11th of April. The Queen will be staying in Windsor Castle for the duration of his stay, and for the rest of April, because of Easter Court.