Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

The Queen's banquet speech for the state visit of Irish President Michael Higgins: In full

Guests, including Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny and Northern Ireland's deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, toast after a speech by Queen Elizabeth II and the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins on April 8, 2014 in Windsor, England.
Guests, including Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny and Northern Ireland's deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, toast after a speech by Queen Elizabeth II and the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins on April 8, 2014 in Windsor, England.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny (top, centre) and Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland (top right) attending a State Banquet in honour of the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins at Windsor Castle during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President.
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duchess of Cornwall (4th left) attend a State Banquet in honour of the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins (5th left) at Windsor Castle during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President.
L-R) Sabina Coyne, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh pose for a photograph ahead of a State Banquet on April 8, 2014 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
President of Ireland Michael D Higgins at the State Banquet hosted by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh in St George's Hall, Windsor Castle on the first official day of the Presidents 5 day State Visit to the United Kingdom. Photo Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography
Martin McGuinness (left), the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland attends a State Banquet in honour of the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins at Windsor Castle during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President.
Deputy First Minister and ex-IRA Commander Martin McGuinness arrives for a State Banquet at Windsor Castle during President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins' visit to the UK which is the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President.
Brian O'Driscoll and Amy Huberman attend a State Banquet in honour of the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins on April 8, 2014 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II accompanies Irish President Michael D Higgins as he is shown Irish related items from the Royal Collection, in the Green Drawing Room, in Windsor Castle, during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President.
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and Sabrina Higgins pay their respects at the Mountbatten Memorial in Westminster Abbey on April 8, 2014 in London, England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)
The Very Reverend John Hall, Dean of Westminster Abbey, shows Irish President Michael D Higgins around Westminster Abbey in London.
The Very Reverend John Hall (R), Dean of Westminster Abbey, with the Irish President Michael D Higgins during his visit to Westminster Abbey on April 8, 2014 in London, England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Queen Elizabeth II (L) shows Irish President Michael D Higgins (R) Irish related items from the Royal Collection, in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle on April 8, 2014 in Windsor, England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Irish President Michael D Higgins watches with his wife Sabina Coyne, as an Irish solider lays a wreath at the grave of the Unknown Warrior, during a visit to Westminster Abbey on April 8, 2014 in London, England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Queen Elizabeth II (3rd R) shows Irish President Michael D Higgins (2nd R) Irish related items from the Royal Collection, in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle on April 8, 2014 in Windsor, England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Queen Elizabeth II (L) shows Irish President Michael D Higgins (R) Irish related items from the Royal Collection, in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle on April 8, 2014 in Windsor, England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Queen Elizabeth II (3rd L) shows Irish President Michael D Higgins (2nd R), his wife Sabina Coyne (2nd L) and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (L), Irish related items from the Royal Collection, in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle on April 8, 2014 in Windsor, England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall attend the ceremonial welcome for Irish President Michael D Higgins on April 8, 2014 at the Royal Dais, Datchet Road in Windsor, England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)
President Michael D Higgins addressed both Houses of Parliament in the Royal Gallery at The Palace of Westminster on the first day of the President's State Visit to the United Kingdom. Johnny Bambury/ Fennell Photography
Queen Elizabeth II and the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins arrive in a state carriage at Windsor Castle, Berkshire during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President
Queen Elizabeth II and the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins arrive in a state carriage at Windsor Castle, Berkshire during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President
The President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins (left) with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle in Berkshire during the president's state visit
Queen Elizabeth II (left) walks with the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins (2nd left), his wife Sabina (2nd right) and Prince Phillip (right) at Windsor Castle in Berkshire during the president's state visit
Queen Elizabeth II and the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins arrive in a state carriage at Windsor Castle, Berkshire during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President
Queen Elizabeth II and the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins arrive in a state carriage at Windsor Castle, Berkshire during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President
Sabina Higgins, wife of the Irish President, Queen Elizabeth II, the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins and Prince Philip inspect the guard at Windsor Castle, Berkshire during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President
(left to right) Sabina Higgins, wife of the Irish President, Queen Elizabeth II, the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins and Prince Philip inspect the guard at Windsor Castle, Berkshire during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President
Sabina Higgins, wife of the Irish President, Queen Elizabeth II, the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins and Prince Philip inspect the guard at Windsor Castle, Berkshire during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President
(left to right) Sabina Higgins, wife of the Irish President, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II and the the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins inspect the guard at Windsor Castle, Berkshire during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President
(left to right) Sabina Higgins, wife of the Irish President, Queen Elizabeth II, the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins and Prince Philip inspect the guard at Windsor Castle, Berkshire during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President
(left to right) Sabina Higgins, wife of the Irish President, Queen Elizabeth II, the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins and Prince Philip inspect the guard at Windsor Castle, Berkshire during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she talks with President of Ireland Michael D Higgins during a ceremonial welcome at Windsor Castle on April 8, 2014 in England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: (L-R) Sabina Higgins, Queen Elizabeth II, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh watch a ceremonial welcome at Windsor Castle on April 8, 2014 in England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Queen Elizabeth II (L) walks with President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and Sabrina Higgins at Windsor Castle after a ceremonial welcome on April 8, 2014 in England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: (L-R) Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Sabina Higgins, Queen Elizabeth II and President of Ireland Michael D Higgins watch a ceremonial welcome at Windsor Castle on April 8, 2014 in England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Queen Elizabeth II (4th R) walks with (L-R) Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Sabina Higgins, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and The Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle after a ceremonial welcome on April 8, 2014 in England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins (centre) with Queen Elizabeth II (left) and Prince Charles (right) at Windsor Castle in Berkshire during the president's state visit
The President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins (centre) walks with Queen Elizabeth II (left) after arriving with his wife Sabina (right) at Windsor Castle in Berkshire during the president's state visit
President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins (2nd right) is greeted by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip (left) outside Windsor Castle in Berkshire
The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins shakes hands with the Duchess of Cornwall, as she and the Prince of Wales welcome him to the UK for a five day state visit, at the Irish Embassy in central London
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Queen Elizabeth II welcomes President of Ireland Michael D Higgins at Windsor Castle on April 8, 2014 in England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: (L-R) Sabina Higgins, Queen Elizabeth II, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh watch a ceremonial welcome at Windsor Castle on April 8, 2014 in England. This is the first official visit by the head of state of the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins shakes hands with the Prince of Wales, as the Prince welcomed him to the UK for a five day state visit, at the Irish Embassy in central London
The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins talks with the Prince of Wales, as the Prince welcomed him to the UK for a five day state visit, at the Irish Embassy in central London
The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins shakes hands with the Duchess of Cornwall, as she and the Prince of Wales welcome him to the UK for a five day state visit, at the Irish Embassy in central London
The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, accompanied by his wife Sabina Higgins arrive at London Heathrow Airport for the first state visit by a President of Ireland to the UK
The Queen addresses a State Banquet in honour of the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins at Windsor Castle during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President.
President Michael D Higgins inspects the guard of honour of the 12th Infantry Battalion before departing the presidential residence, çras an Uachtarin in Dublin for Britain in the first state visit by a President of Ireland to the UK. Picture date: Monday April 7, 2014. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh welcome Irish President Michael D Higgins to Windsor Castle

Mr President, Prince Philip and I are delighted to welcome you and Mrs Higgins to Windsor Castle.

The Castle was founded by William the Conqueror almost a thousand years ago. And a thousand years ago this very month, across the Irish Sea, Brian Boru, the most celebrated of Ireland's High Kings, lost his life at the battle of Clontarf. Yet, despite ten centuries of intervening history, Windsor Castle has had to wait until today to see a formal visit to this country by a Head of State of Ireland.

Prince Philip and I recall our visit to Ireland with great pleasure. We were received warmly wherever we went. Dublin; the city of Cork and its English market; Ireland's historic landmarks like the Rock of Cashel; your people's famous hospitality -- and, of course, Ireland's thoroughbred horses -- all these and much more left a happy and enduring impression.

But even more pleasing, since then, is that we, the Irish and British, are becoming good and dependable neighbours and better friends; finally shedding our inhibitions about seeing the best in each other.

Our two governments have responded to the change in mood. We now cooperate across the full range of public business; indeed, there is today no closer working relationship for my Government than that with Ireland.

This fresh spirit is helping us economically: our trade is growing, supporting many thousands of jobs in both countries, and we are working together to win new business overseas.

As our countries enter a period of historical resonance, it is right to look back in remembrance. In Dublin, I laid wreaths in the Garden of Remembrance for those who died in the cause of Irish freedom and at Islandbridge where Ireland's dead from the First World War are commemorated.

In August, we will mark solemnly the centenary of Britain's entry into World War One, calling to mind the terrible toll it took. People from Ireland were involved in all the major campaigns and battles of the war. We will remember and honour their contribution and sacrifice, just as we remember our own.

My family and my government will stand alongside you, Mr President, and your ministers, throughout the anniversaries of the war and of the events that led to the creation of the Irish Free State.

People have moved freely between these islands over the centuries. Britain has been hugely enriched by the migration of Irishmen and women to these shores.

The contribution of Irish people to Britain has reached into every walk of British life. On your visit, you are meeting men and women of Irish descent in parliament, in our universities, in our health service, in the civil service, music, faith, business, and sport.

And yet, over the years, many Irish migrants to Britain encountered discrimination and a lack of appreciation. Happily, those days are now behind us, and it is widely recognised that Britain is a better place because of the Irish people who live here. We can celebrate not just the Irish men and women who helped to build Britain but also the Irish architects who helped to design it, including that great architect of parliamentary reform, Daniel O'Connell, whose life and work you will have remembered this afternoon on your visit to Parliament.

Mr. President, two years ago, London hosted the Olympic Games.

During that magical summer the Games proved to be a remarkable success, surpassing most people's expectations. They also shone a light on the modern links between Britain and Ireland, as Irish companies worked alongside British ones in building the stadiums and running the Games themselves.

And it took someone of Irish descent, Danny Boyle, to get me to jump from a helicopter.

Mr President, sadly last year we lost the poet Seamus Heaney, whose roots lay in the Northern Irish countryside. His poems, written over many decades, reflected the changing circumstances of Northern Ireland, as hope and history jarred and then slowly began to rhyme.

I am delighted that last year's G8 summit in County Fermanagh and the city of culture festival in Derry~Londonderry showed the very best of Northern Ireland to the world; and we will be recognising the work of individuals and groups who are helping to bring about further positive change -- including the charity, Cooperation Ireland, of which we are joint patrons -- at a reception here on Thursday.

Our two governments will continue to work together in Northern Ireland to support the First and Deputy First Minister and the Executive to advance the peace process and to establish a shared society based on mutual respect and equality of opportunity.

Mr President, the goal of modern British-Irish relations can be simply stated. It is that we, who inhabit these islands, should live together as neighbours and friends. Respectful of each other's nationhood, sovereignty and traditions. Cooperating to our mutual benefit. At ease in each other's company.

After so much chequered history, the avoidable and regrettable pain of which is still felt by many of us, this goal is now within reach.

I started by speaking of ten centuries of history. But there is a balance to be struck between looking back at what has happened, and cannot be changed; and looking forward to what could happen, if we have the will and determination to shape it.

My visit to Ireland, and your visit this week, Mr. President, show that we are walking together towards a brighter, more settled future. We will remember our past, but we shall no longer allow our past to ensnare our future. This is the greatest gift we can give to succeeding generations.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you to rise and drink a toast to the President and Mrs Higgins and to the health and prosperity of the people of Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph