Higgins addresses Parliament on UK visit

Published Tuesday, 08 April 2014
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The President of Ireland has addressed the Houses of Parliament during the first day of his historic state visit to the UK.

Higgins addresses Parliament on UK visit
The Queen with Michael D Higgins after a ceremonial welcome at Windsor Castle (© Getty)

Michael D Higgins was welcomed by the Speaker of the Commons John Bercow before making a speech to members of both houses in the Royal Gallery at Westminster on Tuesday afternoon.

The President said: "I am greatly honoured to be the first President of Ireland to address you in this distinguished Palace of Westminster."

He went on to hail the transformation in relations between Britain and Ireland and said the two nations can take "immense pride" in the Northern Ireland peace process.

"I am conscious that I am in the company here of many distinguished parliamentarians who have made their own individual contributions to the journey we have travelled together," he said.

"I acknowledge them and I salute them, as I acknowledge and salute all those who have selflessly worked to build concord between our peoples.

"I celebrate our warm friendship and I look forward with confidence to a future in which that friendship can grow even more resolute and more productive."

While Sinn Féin abstains from taking its seats at Westminster, three of the party's MPs - Paul Maskey, Pat Doherty and Michelle Gildernew - were in the audience for the speech, alongside Prime Minister David Cameron and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.

Earlier Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina met The Queen at Windsor Castle after greeting Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at the Irish Embassy in London.

The President was honoured with two separate gun salutes before travelling with the monarch in a royal carriage for a state procession through the streets of the town, along a route decked out with Union flags and Irish Tricolours.

The Queen then hosted a private lunch for Mr Higgins and his wife.

On Tuesday afternoon Michael D Higgins laid a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, where he bowed his head in a mark of respect at a plaque in memory of the Queen's cousin Lord Mountbatten who was murdered by the IRA in 1979.

He then visited the Houses of Parliament to give his address in the Royal Gallery.

In the evening, The Queen gave a State Banquet for the President of Ireland at Windsor Castle, which was also be attended by the First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

The presence of former IRA commander Mr McGuinness, who now represents Sinn Féin, has been regarded as a further significant milestone in Anglo-Irish relations.

President Higgins and his wife Sabina touched down at London Heathrow on Monday afternoon accompanied by the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.

They were met by the Viscount Henry Hood, Lord-in-Waiting, on behalf of The Queen. From there, they travelled to Windsor Castle where they will be based for the duration of their stay.

President Higgins and his wife were issued the invitation to stay at Windsor Castle by the Monarch last year.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Ryan in An Dun wrote (296 days ago):
@ observer and respectful. I don't know where to start. Listening to you two I have to laugh. If your talking about flying the union flag in countries that the British had invaded, taken off their rightful owners or interfered in their business then the union flag would be flown everywhere. It's not something to be proud off. The so called British Empire isn't what it used to be. While the royals live their lavish lifestyle off the tax payers money you want to put flags up left right and centre (as if their wasn't enough of them up). As for flying both flags outside the Dail, why when the Irish have fought for years for freedom and reunification. This island is steeped in history and it's that history and culture that bring people to visit. All this Craic about the union flag only being flown on designated days (not taken down completely as you may think by some comments) and dissident threats only harm the work that has been done. It's time to build on what we have and look at the positives. Some comments even turning positives into negatives. But to even suggest for the union flag to be flown at the Dail is just stupid. There are many Protestants in the free state that classify themselves as Irish.
seanie in dungannon wrote (296 days ago):
@observer why fly the union flag in dublin apart fron state visits and sporting events sure we would have to put the polish flag up then to..... But to represent the good people of northern ireland how about a new NI flag... The welsh are pround of their flag as are the scots
Joseph in Co Antrim wrote (297 days ago):
@observer in uk. Yawn you just dont get it do you. Move on for goodness sake. Your like something old from the time tunnel we have to go way back to meet you.
Respectful in Northern Ireland wrote (297 days ago):
Observer - Firstly it is not the Union Jack, it is the Union Flag. It is only correct to refer to the flag as the Union Jack when it is flown upon a ship/vessel. In terms of the Union flag being flown over the Dail in Dublin, maybe there is substance in that idea. Perhaps some agreement could be brought about whereby both flags fly side by side on the City Hall /Stormont and the Dail in Dublin as a show of respect and inderstanding of the unique differences amongst the people of this land both North & South. While the Union flag may not fly over the Dail in Dublin as we speak, there is a greater possibility of it been flown undisturbed or causing anyone offence on a flag pole outside a hotel / airport along with other nations flags as I have seen on numerous occassions vs the chances of the Irish flag being allowed to fly outside a hotel / Airport up here. Anything that would bring real peace and tranquility on our streets to all is worth it, dream and think big!
sean in belfast wrote (297 days ago):
To that fella mark from north Belfast am from belfast too which is in the north of ireland cork in south galway to west dosent matter what part it still ireland. I go aboard on hol people ask me where am from I say ireland ive irish passport so I was born ireland am irish same as if ur born in england ur english scot ur Scottish Wales ur Welsh etc
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