President Michael D Higgins has said he wants to come to Britain on an official state visit early next year.
The move would be in return for the Queen’s visit to Ireland last year and would be his third visit here but the first in such an official capacity.
President Higgins was in London last weekend for a two night trip during which he went to the headquarters of the GAA in Ruislip before going to see three plays put on by the Druid theatre company.
Speaking at Ruislip, he welcomed Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness meeting with the Queen this week.
“The whole matter of reconciliation and deepening relationships between the communities in Northern Ireland will be brought on and I think it will be of positive value and I think it will be of assistance,” he said.
“All of us must realise as well that the Good Friday Agreement is not a finished project or a finished process but rather the release of a project and a process that encourages deepening and encouraging relationships between all aspects of our lives including arts and culture and heritage and so on.”
President Higgins said that he hoped he could undertake a full state visit to Britain early next year, in return for the Queen’s state visit to Ireland last year.
During an interview with The Irish Post last week, the President suggested the idea of ghost estates in Ireland being used as holiday homes for returned emigrants who had fallen on hard times here.
On Saturday, he reiterated his comments and said using the empty houses would be “well worthy of consideration”.
He said many Irish people who were in receipt of social services in Britain wanted to return to Ireland for a period to make a connection with the country.
“If you do have accommodations and faced with all of the options as to their use, before one would consider demolition, certainly I would have thought that [using them for emigrants] in some cases, realising as well that some people will want to move back where they have a network that is supportive and social services that are adequate,” he said.
“Others may want to do so for just a shorter period of time and it is something which is well worthy of consideration.
“It is something which could be advanced with whatever consultation with whatever is the appropriate department, probably housing and the county associations in Britain.
“When we really have a problem at home, such as for example, housing estates which are near finished, unfinished or whatever, we should really put any resource we had into any possible solution which may in fact make the lives of those that are Irish people better.”
The visit to Ruislip GAA was the first time that a serving president had visited a GAA ground in England, according to Brendie Brien, chairman of the GAA provincial council of Britain.
Pictured below are some of those who met the President at Ruislip…
All pictures By Malcolm McNally