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Vernon Coaker MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, speaking ahead of his first official trip to the Republic of Ireland, said:

“The relationship between the UK and Ireland is very special. While once it was difficult and strained, it has been totally transformed by the peace process in Northern Ireland in to a real friendship between close neighbours. The Queen's visit last year showed just how much our bond has deepened and developed.

"As Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I know how important it is to maintain a good relationship with colleagues in the Irish Government and the Oireachtas, and that's why I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to discuss with them some of the key issues in British-Irish and North-South relations.

"I'm also looking forward to visiting Croke Park and hearing about some of the really significant work being done by the GAA, and then later going to pay my respects alongside the Royal British Legion at the Irish National War Memorial in Islandbridge.

"In the week that President Michael D. Higgins is visiting London, I hope my trip the other way is also viewed as recognition of the hugely positive role played by Irish people in British society. In business and politics, arts and culture, the media and public services, the Irish in Britain play an important part in our national life and should be commended for it."

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