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Derry is a symbol of the new British-Irish relationship, says Michael D Higgins in Guildhall speech


Johnny Bambury/Fennell Photograp

Irish President Michael D Higgins last night hailed Derry/Londonderry as an example of the changing relationship between Britain and Ireland as he made a speech at the Guildhall in London.

Speaking on the second day of his State visit, President Higgins said: "I am of course conscious of the particular role that the Guildhall has played in Irish history.

"It was here, in 1609, that the Irish Society was conceived, during a meeting at which representatives from the livery companies of London considered undertaking a plantation in Ulster, on lands recently seized from Gaelic chieftains, and the construction of the first planned city in Ireland, on the western bank of the River Foyle.

"Over the intervening centuries the people of Derry/ Londonderry have lived through many of the most tragic and contentious events of our shared history.

"It was one of the great joys of my Presidency, then, to visit Derry last year as we celebrated together the creativity of the people of that great city during its tenure as UK City of Culture.

"That event in Derry/ Londonderry stands as a symbol of the profound transformation of the relationship between our countries – from colonisation and conflict to partnership and friendship – and they are a symbol of our shared future together." Earlier, President Higgins started the second day of his State visit at the University College, London, Hospital (UCLH), meeting with staff and patients and a host of Irish immigrants.

Following the tour, he travelled to the Royal Society to deliver a speech to a gathering of scientists.

In the afternoon he was at Buckingham Palace for a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Later he met with London Mayor Boris Johnson, and then travelled to 10 Downing Street to see David Cameron.

Mr Cameron was enthusiastic about welcoming the Irish Head of State. He said he was "really excited" about some joint projects between the two countries, adding that Ireland and Britain "are now not just neighbours, but really good friends and deep friends".

President Higgins thanked him "for the incredible reception that I have received".

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has indicated that the Irish Government will formally invite members of the royal family to take part in the commemoration events marking Ireland's independence, which begin in 2016.

Belfast Telegraph