PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has arrived in London for the first ever State visit to Britain by an Irish head of State.
President Higgins and his wife Sabina touched down at Heathrow Airport this evening shortly after 5pm, where members of the Queen’s Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force were awaiting their arrival.
The President and his wife, who were accompanied by the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and his wife Carol Hanney, were greeted at the foot of the plane’s steps by Ireland’s Ambassador to Britain Daniel Mulhall, and his wife Greta.
They then proceeded down a red carpet lined by the RAF men and on into the airport’s Royal Suite.
Inside, the Irish party was introduced to The Viscount Hood, who was representing Queen Elizabeth, and Sir David Brewer, the Queen’s lord lieutenant of Greater London.
They were also introduced to Nicholas Jarrold, the special representative of the secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, the commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police Service Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and Heathrow Airport duty manager Lee Ribolla.
The presidential delegation included secretary general to the President Adrian O’Neill, secretary general to the Government Martin Fraser, Department of Foreign Affairs secretary general David Cooney, the President’s chief of protocol Orla O’Hanrahan, adviser Liam Herrick and Aide de Camp Col Brendan McAndrew.
At 5.20pm, President and Mrs Higgins were driven away from Heathrow in a maroon coloured Bentley, one of two given to the Queen to mark her golden jubilee in 2003, with a police escort. The car was flying an Irish tricolour.
President and Mrs Higgins will spend the first night of the visit in The Doyle Kensington Hotel before travelling to Windsor Castle tomorrow morning, where they will be formally greeted by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
The four will travel together by horse-drawn carriage for a ceremonial welcome at Windsor Castle.
Prior to departing for Windsor, Mr and Mrs Higgins will meet the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at the Irish Embassy at Grosvenor Place.
Later in the day, the President will visit Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster, where he will make an address, before returning to Windsor for a meeting with Labour leader Ed Miliband and a state banquet.
The President will on Wednesday visit University College Hospital London, the Royal Society and 10 Downing Street, to meet Prime Minister David Cameron.
Other engagements include a visit to the Park House Stables in Newbury, a tour of Coventry Cathedral, a concert at the Royal Albert Hall and a visit to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.