President Michael D Higgins has accepted the invitation to become the first Irish head of state to make an official state visit to Britain.

Statements issued from Buckingham Palace and Áras an Uachtaráin tonight announced the visit will take place place from 8 April to 10 April next year. 

The three-day State visit follows the Queen's hugely successful four day visit to Ireland in May 2011.

Mr and Mrs Higgins will stay at Windsor Castle and will pay official visits to the Prime Minister at Downing Street as well as the leader of the Opposition and a banquet hosted by London's Lord Mayor. 

As late as last weekend the Taoiseach and Tánaiste were talking about the growing importance of relationships with the administrations in London and Stormont.

This state visit will also delight the significant numbers in Britain with Irish roots.

A number of meetings between Mr Higgins and members of the Royal family have taken place since his election.

Both he and his wife met Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in June last year at Belfast's Lyric Theatre.

The President met Princess Anne at a sporting event while the Duke of Kent visited him this year at Áras an Uachtaráin.

Mr Higgins has travelled to events in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Scotland over the past year, these were not official visits.

Previous meetings between the Queen and President McAleese and her predecessor Mary Robinson at various functions in Britain were not official State visits.

Next year's trip will the first time an Irish head of state has been formally invited to Britain by a British sovereign.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he warmly welcomed confirmation that President Higgins will pay an official visit to the UK.

He said: "This is a further demonstration of the warm and positive relationship that now exists between Ireland and the United Kingdom," 

"The State Visit in April, following on the very successful visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth in 2011, will be a wonderful opportunity to deepen this even further," he added.