Belfast Telegraph

Queen to visit Northern Ireland

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are to visit Northern Ireland later this month.

They will attend a series of public engagements between June 23 and 25, a statement from Buckingham Palace said.

Details of their itinerary have yet to be announced.

The Queen and Prince Philip last visited Northern Ireland in June 2012 as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour when she shook hands with Stormont Deputy First Minister and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness in a potent symbol of the peace process.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said: "This will be a wonderful opportunity to show Her Majesty and His Royal Highness some of the best that Northern Ireland has to offer and demonstrate the work being done to bring different parts of the community together and build a more prosperous future."

Stormont's First Minister, Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson, welcomed the announcement.

He said: "I look forward to welcoming the Queen and the Duke to Northern Ireland and I know that once again this welcome will extend right across the community."

The Queen has made a series of recent gestures aimed at cementing Anglo-Irish relations.

She visited the Republic of Ireland in a 2011 trip aimed at setting aside old enmities, laying a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, and hosted Irish President Michael D Higgins earlier this year as the first Irish head of state to make a state visit to Britain.

The Queen announced the Government's legislative programme for the coming year.

She said: "My Government will continue to work with the devolved administration in Northern Ireland to rebalance the economy, promote reconciliation and create a shared future."

During her 2012 Diamond Jubilee trip to Northern Ireland, the Queen was warmly welcomed as she toured the grounds of the devolved parliament at Stormont in an open-top vehicle, a sign of improved security, and waved to cheering crowds who sang God Save The Queen.

Mr Robinson said: "The last visit during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations demonstrated beyond doubt the level of affection in which Her Majesty is held by people right across Northern Ireland."

She also went to the Titanic Belfast visitors' centre, overlooking the docks where the famous liner was built.

But the most memorable moment was her handshake with Mr McGuinness at a theatre in Belfast.

Afterwards the Sinn Fein leader described the meeting as highly significant and symbolic.

The Deputy First Minister said it could help define "a new relationship between Britain and Ireland and between the Irish people themselves".

In April Mr McGuinness joined in a toast to the Queen during a state banquet at Windsor Castle.

He stood for the toast, proposed by Mr Higgins during his official visit, as an orchestra played the national anthem.

The public announcement of the dates of her engagements in Northern Ireland later this month was also noteworthy, given the continued threat from dissident republicans opposed to the peace process who have killed police officers, soldiers and a prison warder.

A statement from the Palace confirmed: " Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh will visit Northern Ireland for a series of public engagements between June 23 and June 25 2014.

"Further details of the visit will be published in due course."

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