The British and Irish governments are planning the Queen's first state visit to Ireland before the end of next year, it has been revealed.
After a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron in London, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said he wanted to see the official engagement before President Mary McAleese leaves office.
Mr Cowen said there was now no obstacle in the way of Queen Elizabeth coming to Ireland.
“I think that would be a good development,” the Taoiseach said.
“I think that the importance of an exchange of state visits says a lot about the modern bilateral |relationships we now have.
“We have started a process between the Prime Ministers' offices. I would like to see this during the tenure of our own President (McAleese).”
Mr Cowen, who met Mr Cameron for talks in Downing Street, said a state visit by the Queen and a return trip to Britain by an Irish President would be part of the normal courtesies |enjoyed by neighbouring states.
President McAleese, who is known to have worked behind-the-scenes for a bridge-building visit, suggested the wheels were in motion for the event next year.
“Following today's meeting by the Taoiseach and Prime Minister in London, President McAleese looks forward to the prospect of a visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth,” her spokeswoman said.
President McAleese is to leave office after a second seven-year term in November 2011.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman refused to be drawn on the Taoiseach's suggestions.