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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 September, 2003, 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK
Queen 'to make historic Ireland visit'
King George V
George V and Queen Mary were the last monarchs to visit the south - in 1911
The Queen is preparing for an historic trip to the Republic of Ireland, a report on Saturday suggests.

The visit - which would be the first by a British monarch since partition in 1921 - has been agreed in principle by Buckingham Palace, Downing Street and the Irish Government, the Times newspaper reported.

Even so, the trip will require months of planning and would be one of the biggest ever security operations for a royal visit.

It would be conditional on continuing calm in Northern Ireland and progress in the peace process.

A trip by the Queen to the Republic of Ireland would put a seal on something in the peace process. It would be the cherry on the cake
Senior Buckingham Palace courtier
The last British monarchs to visit the south of Ireland were George V and Queen Mary, who visited Kingstown - now Dun Laoghaire - in 1911 as part of the king's accession tour.

"The visit has been agreed through the normal channels," a senior Palace courtier told the Times.

"It is the Government's call. But a trip by the Queen to the Republic of Ireland would put a seal on something in the peace process. It would be the cherry on the cake.

"She would love to go. She would be fascinated to go."

However, speaking to BBC News Online, the Queen's press secretary refused to confirm that preparations for a visit were underway and said talk about it was "purely speculative".

Security challenge

Continuing calm in Northern Ireland has kindled cautious hope that the peace process will go forward and laid the foundations for a possible visit - which it is said could take place as early as next year.

The trip would nonetheless require complex coordination by the Metropolitan police, Special Branch in Northern Ireland, their counterparts in the Garda Siochana, M15, the Irish Army, and the Queen's special protection officers.

A spokeswoman for the Irish President Mary McAleese - in whose official residence the Queen is tipped to stay - welcomed the proposed visit.

"The President has issued an informal invitation to the Queen. The President would be happy to receive the Queen," the Times quoted the spokeswoman as saying.

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