British monarch Elizabeth Windsor will make an official visit to the 26-County State later this year, it has been confirmed.
While the dates of the visit and the programme have yet to be announced, it is expected to take place over three days in May.
The visit is planned to mark the climax of a campaign by the two governments to normalise partition since the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. It is expected to be strongly opposed by a number of republican and socialist groups.
In a brief statement, the outgoing coalition government said it welcomed the visit, which it said would “mark a further improvement in the very good relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom.”
Windsor is to visit Dublin Castle, the former seat of British colonial rule in Ireland.
The royal figurehead will be accompanied by her husband, ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ Philip Sonderburg-Glucksburg.
British Ambassador Julian King said the pair were “very much looking forward to their visit” to Ireland.
“The invitation symbolises how far the relationship between the two countries has come in recent years; the strength of our economic and political ties; and the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland,” he said. “The visit will provide an excellent opportunity to celebrate this, and build on the rich and varied links that exist across these islands.”
Unofficial announcements have been issued for more than a year in order to test the political wind in the 26 Counties.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the visit was “premature”
“As Republicans Sinn Fein is very aware of the symbolism of a state visit by queen Elizabeth of England and of the offence it will cause to many Irish citizens, particularly victims of British rule and those with legacy issues in this state and in the North,” he said.
But Mr Adams said the party was in favour of the normalisation of relationships between Ireland and Britain.
“This will require the ending of the partition of Ireland and the ability of all the people of this island to shape our own society free from outside interference.
“The Good Friday Agreement provides for this and the process to achieve it is an ongoing focus for Sinn Fein.”