Belfast Telegraph

Britain's Queen plans state visit

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is to pay a state visit to Ireland - the first official tour of the republic by a British monarch.

In a statement, the office of President Mary McAleese said the timing of the visit would be confirmed at a later date.

"President McAleese is pleased to announce that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has accepted an invitation to visit Ireland this year," it said. "The dates of the visit and the programme will be announced jointly by Aras an Uachtarain and Buckingham Palace in due course."

Buckingham Palace in London said in a statement: "The Queen has been pleased to accept an invitation from the President of Ireland to pay a state visit to Ireland this year. The Queen will be accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh."

The visit is widely expected to be in May. Queen Elizabeth will be following in the footsteps of her grandfather George V, who travelled to the country in 1911, before independence.

There had been renewed speculation in the press recently about the possibility of a three-day trip and President McAleese had previously revealed her wish for a historic royal visit.

After a meeting with British prime minister David Cameron in London last June, outgoing Taoiseach Brian Cowen said he wanted to see the official engagement before President McAleese leaves office after a second seven-year term in November.

Mr Cowen had 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 friendly, neighbouring states.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the party believed the visit was premature, but claimed it was an indication of a changed time.

"As Republicans Sinn Fein is very aware of the symbolism of a state visit by Queen Elizabeth of England and of the offence it will cause to many Irish citizens, particularly victims of British rule and those with legacy issues in this state and in the North. We are also very conscious of the attitude of our Unionist neighbours," he said.

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