In April President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina made their first official state visit to Queen Elizabeth II – in fact the first official Irish state visit to the U.K. since the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922.
Celebrated as a diplomatic success, the four-day visit included two banquets at Windsor Castle, the royal residence; a concert at Royal Albert Hall celebrating Irish culture; and a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare.
Though the trip had its critics, both Irish and English, President Higgins implored everyone to “think of all the things we have in common.” He also insisted that the trip does not mean forcing reconciliation or white-washing the past, saying, “Proximity in fact hides the nuances that are there in both of our countries,” adding that Ireland would not “become involved in any amnesia about different events,” according to The Irish Times.
In a speech at the Windsor Castle banquet, the Queen emphasized similar points, referencing the success of her 2011 state visit to the Republic. “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.”