A new chapter of partnership and friendship has been opened between Ireland and Britain, the Irish President said.
The future can be changed and the visit is the culmination of the success of the North peace process, Mary McAleese added.
She addressed a state dinner in Dublin, saying: “This evening we celebrate a new chapter in our relationship that may still be a work in progress, but happily has also become a work of progress, of partnership and friendship.”
What were once only hopes for the future have now come to pass; it is almost exactly 13 years since the overwhelming majority of people in Ireland and the North voted in favour of the agreement signed on Good Friday 1998, paving the way for the North to become the exciting and inspirational place that it is today.
“I applaud the work of all those involved in the peace process and of all those who support and nurture peace, including members of the police, the Garda and the other emergency services, and those who work in the communities, the Churches and charitable bodies like Co-operation Ireland.
“Taken together, their work not only serves as the basis for reconciliation between our peoples and communities, but it gives hope to other peacemakers across the world that through sustained effort, peace can and will prevail.
“For the world moves on quickly. The challenges of the past have been replaced by new economic challenges which will demand the same imagination and courage.
“The lessons from the peace process are clear – whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load.
“There are other stories written daily across these islands which do not find their voice in solemn pages of history books, or newspaper headlines but which are at the heart of shared narrative.
“Many British families have members who live in this country, as many Irish families have close relatives in the United Kingdom. These families share the two islands; they have visited each other and have come home to each other over the years. They are the ordinary people who yearned for the peace and understanding we now have between our two nations and between the communities within those two nations; a living testament to how much in common we have.
“These ties of family, friendship and affection are our most precious resource. They are the lifeblood of the partnership across these islands, a golden thread that runs through all our joint successes so far, and all we will go on to achieve. They are a reminder that we have much to do together to build a future for all our grandchildren; the kind of future our grandparents could only dream of.
“So we celebrate together the widespread spread of goodwill and deep mutual understanding that has served to make the relationship more harmonious, close as good neighbours should always be.”