Sinead Morris

Marking a Milestone

Reporting on the first Irish State Visit to the United Kingdom

Part 1—Getting the message out
“Wear sensible shoes...there’ll be lots of standing around. And don’t forget to eat.”

Another man attempting to capture a sense of the State visit through a more historic medium is Irish artist Michael Hanrahan. He painted the iconic image of Queen Elizabeth visiting the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin alongside then President Mary McAleese in 2011. The painting was accepted as a gift to the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace. Michael has now offered to paint aspects of President Higgins' visit to the UK for the Queen, and Buckingham Palace representatives have said they would be happy to view the finished works.
This was the practical advice from one of my colleagues about how to prepare for this task - reporting on the first visit by an Irish head of state to the UK. It’s advice which could be applied to many of life’s major events. I’m taking all the tips on offer. I’ve brought enough equipment and back-up equipment for three visits. I’ve scanned the many operational notes and media briefings and programmes, and now it doesn’t matter whether or not I’m prepared, because things have already started. Unfortunately the mobile wi-fi hotspot which offered me the sun, moon and stars internet experience has not...
After 45 minutes spent trying to connect, I decide to stop wasting my time, and take a wander around Windsor.

A jumble of cables and equipment greets me in the hotel corridor as I arrive for the first time outside the room designated as the centre for RTÉ and other media operations in the Harte & Garter hotel in Windsor. I now have a sense of the large volume of stuff required to keep the show on the road.
The oldest and largest occupied castle in the world (as described on the official website of the British Monarchy), must have seen its fair share of pomp and ceremony over the centuries. While I’m grappling with how to report on this visit using different multi-media platforms, I’m left wondering about the news agencies of the past.

“People were coming up to me and asking me what country the flags were from. A couple of people thought it was Mauritius.”

RTÉ's Northern Editor Tommie Gorman tells me it is key people behind the scenes who keep things running smoothly on a media event like this. He says reporting on such an occasion is hugely rewarding.


Chris Brown is the official town crier for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. The position was reinstated in 2012 after an almost century-long hiatus. Chris had already delivered a 100-word proclamation about the visit of President Higgins on the Saturday before the President’s arrival, which Chris says, sparked quite a bit of interest:

In the hours before the President's arrival at Windsor there's very little doubt about which country the flags have been put there for. One tourist asks me if there is an Olympic athlete coming to Windsor, and looks somewhat disappointed on hearing that it is in fact a President. However for the most part, the crowd, waving tricolours and decked out in green, are well aware of who is coming to visit.