Four explorers who made history by becoming the first Irish expedition to reach the South Pole have been invited to Stormont by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
It emerged as the team, led by veteran adventurer Pat Falvey from Cork, were preparing to meet President Mary McAleese at a special reception in Dublin.
The squad arrived at the Pole on January 8 after journeying 1,140km through some of the harshest conditions known to man.
“We can confirm that Mr McGuinness did send a letter [of invite] and that he would be happy to have them in Stormont,” a spokeswoman for the Deputy First Minister’s office said.
The group set out on their expedition on November 8 and have battled biting snowstorms, icy winds, injuries and constant sub-zero temperatures while hauling sleds weighing more than 150kg.
The other team members were Dr Clare O’Leary, who became the first Irish woman to make it to the South Pole, Dublin IT consultant Shaun Menzies, 42, and 36-year-old Jonathon Bradshaw, both relatively inexperienced high-altitude trekkers who were invited to join the expedition.
Mr Falvey said he was honoured and privileged to have been invited to Stormont.
“Exploration is a great form of unification and it has been in Ireland for many years.
“Both sides of the divide have worked together in relation to promoting peace and tranquility and world knowledge and I am so privileged to be asked to a part of the country that I have such a great fondness for,” he said.
A date for the visit has yet to be finalised.