Queen Elizabeth II will visit the Republic of Ireland for the first time, most likely next year, the Irish president said Wednesday.
''That day is significantly closer now,'' Mary McAleese said after she and the British monarch discussed the success of power-sharing in Northern Ireland. Both women then attended a ceremony at Queen's University of Belfast in the British territory.
The queen did not comment; Buckingham Palace declined to discuss her future travel plans.
No British monarch has visited the territory of the Republic of Ireland since 1911, a decade before the island's partition into a British, mostly Protestant north and an independent, predominantly Catholic south.
The British and Irish governments agree that a visit by the queen should be reserved for a symbolically powerful moment after every element of the 15-year-old peace process has been achieved.
McAleese, a Belfast-born Catholic, said Ireland could not host a visit by a British monarch until after the Northern Ireland administration receives remaining key powers from Britain.
''When that is done, when devolution (of British power) is completed, then anything is possible,'' she said. ''We know her majesty wishes to come, and we wish her to come ... and we hope it will be sooner rather than later.''
However, McAleese said she did not think the queen would come this year and that 2009 appeared far more likely.
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