The State Visit

The President travels to London on day two of his state visit to Britain

Dan Griffin Wed, Apr 9
LIVE: The State Visit

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  • 09:36

    Good morning. It's day two of the Irish state visit to the United Kingdom. Following last night's royal banquet in Windsor Castle, President Michael D Higgins is today viewing the colours of disbanded Irish regiments with the Duke of York.

    Taoiseach Enda Kenny meanwhile has been giving an address at a business breakfast in the City of London.

  • 09:48

    Here's some of our coverage from yesterday's events:

    Queen Elizabeth has said the “regrettable pain” felt by many in Ireland and the United Kingdom at our chequered history could be overcome for the mutual benefit of both countries, write Stephen Collins and Mark Hennessy.

    After the Treaty of 1921 the Irish poet and mystic George Russell (“AE”) pointed out, with his habitual shrewdness, that the reasons why Ireland had to separate from Britain lay in “the psychological factor” rather than oppressive government – which was, by the time of the revolution, no longer an issue. But history and psychology made the Irish regard any kind of government by the British as “a tyranny inflicted on them by aliens” who were incapable of understanding their aspirations to a less material, complacent world than the model of Anglicisation on offer. Read Roy Foster's opinion piece here.

    Yesterday’s engagements at Windsor Castle and Westminster highlighted the sartorial choices of President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina on the first day of their state visit, says Deirdre McQuillan in her fashion round-up.

    While Miriam Lord writes  that the welcoming eyes of friendship yesterday shone through all the pomp.

  • 10:05

    Some of the correspondence we've received on the state visit:

    Regarding your front page photograph (April 8) of the President with his wife Sabina before leaving Casement Aerodrome on a four-day
    State visit to Britain,I notice the sartorially elegant Michael D is sporting a tie with a Windsor knot.
    - Paul Delaney, Dublin

    Perhaps in the spirit of the times we should ‘demilitarise’ our National Anthem (but let’s keep that historic air!). Here is an attempt:
    Sinne saoranaigh
    Ata faoi gheall ag Eirinn Buion dar slua
    Thar toinn is ansa linn
    Faoi mhoid bheith saor Seantir ar sinsir feasta
    Ni fhagfar faoin tioran na faoin traill
    Inniu a theimid le ceile Le gean ar Ghaeil is gean ar Ghaill
    Is deinimis ar sli Le gra mor inar gcroi
    Seo libh canai’ Amhran na nGael
    - Alex Reid, Donegal

    President’s Higgins state visit to Britain has taken the word “sycophancy” to new heights.
    - Derek Henry Carr, Dublin

  • 10:22

    After viewing the colours of the disbanded regiments, the President and his wife, Sabina, will visit University College London.

    where they will be greeted by the Earl Howe, parliamentary under-secretary, UK department of health. They will meed patients and some Irish staff members.

    Later the President will visit the Royal Society where he will view an exhibition of items related to Ireland and make an address on the importance of scientific and technological cooperation between Ireland and Britain.

    He will then travel to 10 Downing Street for a meeting at a lunch hosted by Prime Minister Cameron.

    While he is there, Sabina will attend a youth workshop at City Hall titled “Taking Charge of Change Together”. It will involve young people from Ireland and the UK who participate in Gaisce – The President’s Award/The Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards; the President’s ‘Being Young and Irish’ initiative; the British Youth Council; and Irish community groups in Britain. The President will be greeted on arrival at City Hall by the Mayor of London, Mr Boris Johnson. After being briefed by representatives of the young people on the content of their Workshop, the President will make an address.

    Later in the evening the President will receive a courtesy call by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, at Buckingham Palace.

    Afterwards the President and Sabina will attend a Banquet hosted by the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman Fiona Woolf, and the City of London Corporation at the Guildhall.

  • 10:43

    Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness has said he believes he had the "overwhelming support of the people of Ireland" when he joined in the toast to the queen last night.

    Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 in the past few minutes, Mr McGuinness said the toast to the queen followed a similar toasting of the Irish President. He said the queen has been willing to show "impressive leadership" in the area of conflict resolution.

    He said he "went into Windsor Castle as an unapologetic Irish republican and I'm still an unapologetic Irish republican" but he said toasting the queen was "the proper thing to do".

    He added that he has been cast into a position of leadership and said he has tried to provide leadership in building the peace process. "I believe I have the overwhelming support of the people of Ireland for what I did last night."

    This morning the former chairman of the Conservative Party Norman Tebbit is quoted in newspapers as saying he hopes a dissident republican group will shoot Mr McGuinness for attending the banquet at Windsor Castle and toasting the Queen.

    Mr Tebbit and his wife were injured in the 1984 Brighton bomb. He said: "There's always the possibility that a member of the Real IRA will be so outraged by Mr McGuinness bowing to the Queen that they might shoot him in the back for it. We can but hope."

    Responding to the peer's comments, Mr McGuinness acknowledged Mr Tebbit and his family have been "very badly hurt by the conflict" but added that the remarks were "not fitting for someone in the elected position that he has been in for some time." He added that he didn't intend to make an issue of it.

  • 11:05
    A photograph of the Taoiseach speaking in London this morning. The photographer may have been feeling a bit ropey after last night's banquet.
  • 11:10
    Meanwhile, in New Zealand.
    Meanwhile, in New Zealand.
  • 11:31

    Martin McGuinness gets lots of attention in the British papers this morning, appearing on the front pages of the Telegraph and the Times. His presence at the banquet last night seems to be main talking point about the visit over there. While here, of course, everyone is transfixed by how absolutely splendid everthing is. And to think, for how long did we slag the Brits for all their pageantry only to eventually reveal ourselves to actually be more enthusiastic about it than them.

    Again, a quote from yesterday's coverage:  "Look at this, just look at this. Incredible. the oiled hooves, the shiny uniforms. wonderful, just wonderful."  

  • 11:33
  • 11:34
  • 11:44
    Gerry Adams's last three tweets (two last night and one this morning) are revelatory. What exactly they reveal, however, I'm not quite sure.
  • 11:46
    First this:
  • 11:49
    Then, more succinctly, this:
  • 11:50
    And finally, this morning:
  • 11:57
    Going on the updates from the British Embassy, the President has been shown special features on the dementia ward of UCLH. He has seen "special magnets" which are placed on boards in each ward which highlight patients' special requirements. He has also just had a chat with a patient from Mullingar and has spoken to researchers at the hospital about new ways to treat dementia.
  • 12:08
    The Duke of York shows the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, accompanied by his wife Sabina Higgins, the Colours of the Disbanded Irish Regiments in the Grand stairs at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Photograph: PA
    The Duke of York shows the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, accompanied by his wife Sabina Higgins, the Colours of the Disbanded Irish Regiments in the Grand stairs at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Photograph: PA
  • 12:28

    From a press release from the Department of Foreign Affairs:

    Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore will meet UK Foreign Secretary William Hague today to discuss the situation in Ukraine, the Middle East Peace Process, and the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The Tánaiste is representing the Irish Government throughout President Higgins’ State visit to the UK this week.

    After their meeting, the Tánaiste and Foreign Secretary Hague will join President Higgins and Prime Minister David Cameron for a working lunch at 10 Downing Street. Speaking ahead of the meeting, the Tánaiste said they would discuss the potential for further sanctions in a broad range of economic areas in the event of further steps by the Russian Federation to destabilise the situation in Ukraine.

    The Tánaiste and the Foreign Secretary are also expected to reiterate their support for a comprehensive and ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the US, building on the momentum achieved at the recent EU-US Summit.

  • 12:42

    In his speech this morning to the Royal Society in London, the President said climate change requires “an ethical discourse” involving all citizens and not just scientists.

    Political Editor Stephen Collins, reports on the speech, saying the President pointed to the human and intellectual ties between Ireland and Britain. “The experimental investigations, the spirit of discovery and questioning which made Boyle one of the central figures in the scientific revolution of the 17th century, aptly reflect the particular nature of the Irish genius,” the President said.

    “Indeed the most significant products of Irish culture have had as their defining characteristic a tendency to look at the world in novel and unconventional ways and to question prevailing orthodoxies.”

    The President listed a number of Irish scientists including Robert Boyle, the mathematician William Hamilton, John Tyndall, who explained why the sky is blue; Nicholas Callan, who invented the induction coil; William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse, who built the worlds largest telescope and used it to locate new structures in the heavens; George Gabriel Stokes, who investigated the phenomenon of fluorescence and advance the wave theory of light; William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, who contributed so much to the transatlantic telegraph project; John Lighton Synge, who pioneered the study of black holes; George Francis Fitzgerald, whose understanding of the laws of motion provided an essential building block for the Special Theory of Relativity.

    “Finally, I am delighted to note that the first woman to be elected Fellow of the Royal Society, in 1945, was X-ray crystallographer Kathleen Lonsdale, from Newbridge, County Kildare.”

  • 12:43
  • 12:44
  • 13:07
  • 13:32
    Th President has now gone in for lunch with prime minister David Cameron at No 10 Downing Street. They will be joined by Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore, William Hague and officials.
  • 13:32
    Incidentally, Sabina is today wearing a Royal Blue suit from 'Charactere' label. Her hat is from Nessa Cronin and shoes from Anastasia Ranelagh. Her necklace and earrings come from The Tudors wardrobe. The President, meanwhile, is wearing a suit from Abrahams Tailoring with a royal blue tie with a Tudor design.
  • 13:47
  • 14:07
  • 14:25

    "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," said British PM David Cameron this afternoon after greeting Michael D.

    "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.

    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.

    He added: "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."

  • 14:26
  • 14:32
  • 14:48
    The President and Sabina are attending a youth workshop at City Hall. At about 3.40 deputy prime minister Nick Clegg will make a courtesy call on the President in Buckingham Palalce. We'll bring you details of all that--and more!--later on.
  • 15:50
  • 16:01

    Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he would like to see Queen Elizabeth visit Ireland to take part in the 1916 centenary commemorations, writes Steven Carroll.

    Mr Kenny said he was “very pleased” to hear the queen tell a state banquet for President Michael D Higgins at Windsor Castle last night that members of “her family and government” would stand side by side with the Government as it marks the anniversary.

  • 16:31
  • 16:34

    Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said the government will consider inviting members of the Royal Family to Ireland for the 1916 commemorations.

    The Labour leader has backed Taoiseach Enda Kenny who earlier said plans are being drawn up ahead of the centenary in two years time.

    Mr Kenny this morning teed up the prospect of a return visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth, who made a huge impact during her visit three years ago.

    Speaking in Westminister this afternoon, Mr Gilmore said commemorations of the Easter Rising should take place in cooperation with our British neighbours.

    "Both the British and the Irish government are very conscious that we should do this together. That we should commemorate the things that we share together, this is a shared history," the Tanaiste said.

    "It is something that we should do together. I think the government will consider issuing a invitation for participation in these events," he added.

    Mr Gilmore was speaking ahead of a meeting with British Foreign Secretary William Hague at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

    The Tory MP said that commemorating these events will help to "bring people together for the future".

    "I think with all these very important centenaries coming up over the next four years, it's very important for us to commemorate these things together in a way that helps to being people together for the future," he said.

    "I think all the events, the events period. Remember, how many lives were lost in so many conflicts all around the world in that period? And I think, with all of them, including in commemorating the Easter Rising it is important to observe those principles that I was just talking about that we commemorate them together in a way that helps to bring people together for the future," he added.

    Earlier, Mr Kenny said his officials will put in place the necessary arrangements ahead of a potential second visit to our shores by Queen Elizabeth.

    "I was actually very pleased to hear the Queen herself speak last night saying that members of her family and her government would stand side-by-side with representatives from Ireland at appropriate commemorative ceremonies and government will work out what's the thing to do about this," he added.

  • 16:43
  • 17:39
    So to recap now before the President attends another glitzy gala banquet, this one in the Guildhall in the City of London this evening.

    The day started with a viewing of the colours (that's flags to you) of the disbanded Irish regiments in the company of Prince Andrew.

    From there himself and Sabina went to University College London Hospital on Euston Road where they met Irish members of staff and researchers. After that the President visited the Royal Society where he viewed an exhibition and gave an address on science and technology.

    After that he headed to Downing Street to have lunch with prime minister David Cameron in the company of Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore and William Hague while his wife visited RADA before going to lunch at the Irish Embassy.

    This afternoon they met up again for a youth workshop engagement at City Hall. The President was greeted here by London (directly elected) mayor Boris Johnson. He listened to the young people and made an address before making his way to Buckingham Palace. There he received a courtesy call by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

    At about 6.30pm he will attend the banquet in the Guildhall where he will also give an address.

  • 18:54
    The President will be attending the gala in the Guildhall now and that's where we'll leave the live blog coverage. Michael D Higgins is due to give an address later tonight in which he is expected to once again focus on the contribution of Irish immigrants in the UK. He will also likely take the opportunity to voice his reservations about what he sees as the lack of regulation in the financial industry. In addition, he is expected to focus on the normal people who suffer the costs when governments attempt to stabilise state finances.