Kate Middleton and her husband Prince William are to visit Ireland in 2014.

Buckingham Palace is finalising plans for the Royals to follow Queen Elizabeth across the Irish Sea.

The trip is expected to take place in the first half of next year and has been planned since before Middleton’s pregnancy.

The Irish Sun reports that Prince William’s role as a search and rescue helicopter pilot in the Irish Sea is expected to be central to the visit.

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An insider said: “The fact that Prince William is based in Anglesey in Wales gives a good hook for the visit.

“There is a lot of co-operation between Britain and Ireland in that area. Very tentative steps were taken before the Duchess of Cambridge became pregnant, but obviously because of the baby that had to be put on hold.”

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore signalled the move in the Irish Parliament.

He said: “It is a priority” to deepen ties with Britain via events such as a visit by the couple.”

Prime Minister Enda Kenny had informally invited the royal couple to visit Ireland last August when they were introduced at a pre-Olympic reception at Buckingham Palace.

He said afterwards: “They were very enthusiastic.”

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