The Queen is to pay a state visit to the Irish Republic this year, the first by a British monarch since independence in 1922, it was announced yesterday.
King George V was the last reigning monarch to visit the country in 1911 when it was then part of the UK.
Julian King, Britain's ambassador to Dublin, said: "The invitation symbolises how far the relationship has come in recent years; the strength of our economic and political ties; and the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland." A date for the trip has not been released but it is widely expected to be in May – a few weeks after the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Bobby McDonagh, the Irish ambassador to London, who delivered the Queen's invitation on behalf of President Mary McAleese, said: "The visit reflects the depth and the warmth of the British-Irish relationship."
The Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, said his party believed it was premature. He said: "Sinn Fein is very aware of the symbolism of a state visit by Queen Elizabeth ... 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."