Not only were Brian O’Driscoll and Amy Huberman invited to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding two years ago and the soiree at Buckingham Palace earlier this month, but they were also the Queen’s young Irish couple of choice with their inclusion at the dinner party of the year — the state banquet at Windsor Castle.
The couple joined politicians such as Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and former president Mary Robinson, and celebrities such as Judi Dench, Daniel Day Lewis, Terry Wogan, fashion designer Louise Kennedy, and milner Philip Treacy for the historic meal.
President-elect of the GAA Aogán Ó Fearghail was also among the 160 high-profile names invited to St George’s Hall. He described the event, hosted by the Queen, as the “cementing of relationships between these two islands”.
The Taoiseach was seated next to Cameron while the Tánaiste was placed next to the Queen and Princess Anne.
Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, and Ed Miliband, leader of Britain’s Labour Party, were also seated at the enormous banquet table alongside Pat Rabbitte, the communications minister.
Garry Hynes, one of the founders of the Druid Theatre in Galway, actor Fiona Shaw, broadcaster John Bowman, and Noel Curran, the director general of RTÉ, also made the guestlist.
But many eyes were discreetly on Martin McGuinness, the North’s deputy first minister and a former IRA commander, who sat just 15 places away from Prince Philip and the Queen at the 48m-long table.
On either side of McGuinness sat civil liberties leader Shami Chakrabati and Paul Purse, a Nobel laureate.
A former MP in the Commons, Mr McGuinness declined an invitation to the Dublin Castle banquet during the Queen’s 2011 trip to Ireland.