Irish president Higgins to make first state visit to UK

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 17, 2013 4:02 PM
Irish president Higgins to make first state visit to UK

LONDON (Reuters) - Michael D. Higgins will make the first state visit to Britain by an Irish president next year three years after Queen Elizabeth made a historic trip to Dublin to help repair relations clouded by a history of conflict.

During a 2011 state visit to Ireland, the first by a British monarch since Ireland won independence from London in 1921, the queen made powerful gestures of reconciliation for Britain's bloody past in Ireland.

Last year the queen, 87, also shook the hand of former Irish Republican Army guerrilla chief Martin McGuinness to help draw a line under a conflict that cost the lives of thousands of soldiers and civilians, including that of her cousin.

The meeting with McGuinness, now the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, came 14 years after the IRA ended its war against British rule in the province, and is one of the last big milestones in a peace process.

A statement from the queen's office on Sunday said Higgins and his wife Sabina had accepted an invitation to make a state visit from April 8-10 next year. They will stay at Windsor Castle, located to the west of London.

Irish presidents regularly visit Britain, but this will be the first full state visit.

"This is a further demonstration of the warm and positive relationship that now exists between Ireland and the United Kingdom," Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said in a statement.

(Reporting by William James and Padraic Halpin)