Brit Queen to make first-ever state visit to Ireland
Queen Elizabeth II will visit to the Republic of Ireland later in 2011, the first ruling British monarch to visit the country in a century.
It's a highly symbolic visit by the 84-year-old queen, who Buckingham Palace said would be accompanied by her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. No specific date was given for the visit.
King George V spent six days in Dublin in 1911, when Britain and Ireland were united under a single crown. Ireland won its independence in 1922, but relations between Ireland and Britain were poisoned by continuous arguments and fighting over the fate of Northern Ireland, which remained part of the United Kingdom.
Hundreds were killed as the Irish Republican Army fought unsuccessfully to wrest the province from British control over three decades known as "The Troubles." Lord Louis Mountbatten, an uncle of Prince Philip, the queen's husband, was killed in 1979 when the IRA blew up his yacht near his castle in County Sligo, western Ireland.
The 1998 Good Friday peace accord, which gave Northern Ireland a measure of self-government, went a long way toward healing the rift.
British Ambassador Julian King said the invitation "symbolizes 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. "
"The visit will provide an excellent opportunity to celebrate this, and build on the rich and varied links that exist across these islands," he said today.
Royals have visited the Irish Republic before. Prince Charles, the eldest son of the queen, led the way with a 1995 visit to Dublin and another in 2002. Prince Philip made an official visit to Dublin in 1998 and 2006.
Today's announcement came a week after Irish voters dealt the ruling Fianna Fail party a historic loss, the worst in nearly 80 years, and put the opposition Fine Gael party in power.