A visit by Britain's King Charles III to both parts of Ireland is reported to be on the cards this summer following his coronation in May.
The planned visit would give added impetus to the bid to persuade the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to accept the terms of the Windsor Framework that ironed out difficulties in the Northern Ireland Protocol, a peace-seeking post-Brexit deal ensuring a soft trade border remains on the island of Ireland.
A Lucidtalk poll for The Belfast Telegraph showed that two-thirds of the people of Northern Ireland support the framework but only a third of unionists do. The same poll reported support for the DUP rejecting the framework, but growing support for the party to rejoin the Stormont power-sharing administration.
Former Irish ambassador to the EU and UK Bobby McDonagh said on Monday a royal visit would be highly important and send a clear signal on Irish-British relations.
McDonagh told Newstalk radio, “It would not be unreasonable to think that King Charles will visit Ireland at some point.
"I think a visit to the North is a separate question because it would be surprising if after his coronation he didn’t visit all the different parts of the United Kingdom.”
McDonagh was speaking after the Mail on Sunday reported preparations for a planned trip to both parts of Ireland.
The trip to the Republic would be a state visit and the paper reported that government officials and security services have already been tasked with making preparations.
A senior security source who was involved in the arrangements for the visits of Queen Elizabeth and several former US presidents said the “usual protocols for preparing security” have kicked in.
The source said, “We have been informed quietly by government officials that we should start making the personnel and logistical preparations for a state visit by the British monarch this summer.”
Prior to his coronation, Charles has already planned state visits to France and Germany, sending a clear signal that’s in line with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s wish to restore relations with the EU.
King Charles holds a special place for Ireland, despite his relative and close companion Lord Mountbatten being murdered in Co Sligo by the IRA in 1979. Charles made an emotional visit to the scene almost eight years ago.
McDonagh added, “When I was ambassador in London...he said that every time he has been with Irish people, he comes away with his spirits lifted, and I have no doubt that he meant that.”
*This column first appeared in the March 15 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.