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Queen's Dublin visit 'overdue' - Burton

Labour Party deputy leader Joan Burton today described the Ireland visit by the queen as "overdue" and "to be welcomed".

She spoke as a major security plan is being drafted for the visit to Dublin in late May.

"There are so many Irish people with family in Britain and so many people of Irish descent in Britain," she said.

"We also have a large number of UK citizens living in the Republic, so I think relations got normalised a long time ago."

Dissident Republican groups are planning street demonstrations to protest against the visit, the date of which has yet to be announced.

Senior anti-terrorist gardai are now meeting to formulate a plan to ensure the British monarch's safety over her three-day visit here.

They will consult heavily with British intelligence services amid fears that dissident terrorists may attempt a so-called 'spectacular' attack.

Garda leave is set to be cancelled for the 72-hour duration of the trip.

The trip is the first official visit by a British monarch since the foundation of the State.

The planned visit was warmly welcomed by all of the political parties last night, except Sinn Fein who said it was premature.

Already, dissident groups are scheduling protests against the visit and garda anti-terrorist officers have started drafting contingency plans for the queen's security.

The announcement of the visit yesterday by President Mary McAleese ended months of speculation and was described as a watershed in Irish-British relations.

The queen's grandfather, King George V, was the last serving monarch to visit exactly 100 years ago when Ireland was part of the UK.

He spent six days in Dublin in 1911.

The visit by the queen, who will be accompanied by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is not expected to be as long and will probably take place in the latter half of May, the Herald understands.

Detailed planning will not get under way until an itinerary has been finalised, although intelligence gathering is under way.

The royal visit will result in the biggest VIP protection operation for more than two decades.

hnews@herald.ie