President Michael D. Higgins is set to attend the formal coronation ceremony of the UK’s King Charles, making him the first Irish head of state in history to do so.
Last September Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II passed away at the age of 96, leading to her 74-year-old son, Charles III, succeeding her as monarch. However, his formal coronation ceremony will not take place until May 6th in Westminster Abbey.
According to a spokesperson for the President, Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina are set to attend the ceremony on behalf of Ireland, and will also attend a reception at Buckingham Palace the night before during the historic visit.
A visit to Ireland by the new King and Queen is also expected in the near future, although the date is yet to be decided.
The last time a British monarch visited Ireland was the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip in May of 2011, at the invitation of then-Irish President Mary McAleese. This had been the first visit of a reigning British monarch to the 26-counties since the 1911 visit of King George V, before the Republic had achieved independence.
At the time then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny linked that visit to the Good Friday Agreement, which had been signed 13 years prior, with DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson saying it symbolised “a sign of the normalisation of relations between our two countries.”
However, Gerry Adams – who was leader of Sinn Féin at the time – hit out at the visit, saying he did not think it was the “right time” for the English Queen to come to Ireland. He specifically drew reference to the fact that it was set to occur on the anniversary of the Dublin Monaghan bombings, dubbing this “particularly insensitive.”
Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness also called the visit “premature” and declined invitations to attend a number of ceremonies.
However, President Mary McAleese said the event was taking place at “absolutely the right moment,” calling it an “an extraordinary moment in Irish history.”
This sentiment was echoed by the British Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, who dubbed the trip as a “huge step forward” for Anglo-Irish relations.