President to meet UK PM and London mayor

President Michael D Higgins and Britain's Queen Elizabeth arrive for the banquet last night in Windsor Castle. Picture: PA

President Michael D Higgins begins day two of his state visit to Britain today with an event to mark the contribution of Irish people to the NHS.

Mr Higgins will meet Prime Minister David Cameron in Downing Street during the day and also the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

A private but nonetheless significant engagement will take place at the start of the day when the Duke of York shows the president the colours of the six disbanded Irish regiments which have been preserved in Windsor since 1922.

Along the Grand Stairs of the castle, the Queen’s home, President Higgins will inspect a piece of history in safekeeping for 92 years at the behest of King George V after 200,000 Irish men enlisted to fight for the Crown.

The regimental flags of the Royal Irish Regiment, the Connaught Rangers, the Leinster Regiment, the Royal Munster Fusiliers, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and cavalry unit the South Irish Horse will be shown to the president.

The castle was the setting for a historic state banquet in President Higgins’s honour yesterday where the Queen said that Britain and Ireland shall “no longer allow our past to ensnare our future”.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness stood and joined in a toast to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the people of the UK as an orchestra played God Save The Queen.

The event was made all the more significant due to the presence of Mr McGuinness – a move unthinkable only a decade ago.

In his speech, Mr Higgins made reference to the Queen’s historic visit to Ireland, saying: “Admirably, you chose not to shy away from the shadows of the past, recognising that they cannot be ignored when we consider the relationship between our islands.”

He said her “apt and considered words when you addressed some of the painful moments of our mutual history” were valued.

President Higgins will spend today further highlighting co-operation and contribution of people from the two countries, building on the opening day of the four-day visit which focused on the improved relations between Britain and Ireland,

President Higgins and his wife Sabina will visit University College London Hospital where they will see the hospital’s work with older patients with dementia and the hyper acute stroke unit and meet with past and present staff originally from Ireland.

Day two will also include a trip to the Royal Society where science partnerships will be showcased and collaborative will also be highlighted.

The President will attend a unique youth workshop at City Hall, titled Taking Charge of Change Together, where young people from both countries who are involved in Gaisce – The President’s Award and The Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards will take part.

Others will represent the President’s Being Young and Irish initiative, the British Youth Council and Irish community groups in Britain.

Forty-eight outstanding young people from the two countries have been selected to attend City Hall to discuss the challenges facing young people and to explore new ideas that promote collaboration and advance youth participation and leadership.

The President will visit the workshop after meeting the PM in Downing Street and will be welcomed by Mr Johnson.

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