Northern Ireland

Irish bid to turn Buckingham Palace green

Sydney Opera House gone green
Image caption Some of the world's most famous sights will be going green on 17 March
'Moulin Vert'
Image caption The greening of landmarks around the world is becoming a tradition across the world with the encouragement of Tourism Ireland
Green London Eye
Image caption The London Eye has gone green in previous years
Prince's Palace in Monaco gone green
Image caption The Prince's Palace in Monaco will join in the tradition again for ST Patrick's Day 2013
Image caption The Queen has not yet given permission for a changing of the colour at her official London residence
A computer mock-up of Buckingham Palace gone green
Image caption If she does, the result might look a little like this computer mock-up

Irish tourism chiefs have asked the Queen for the green light for a Saint Patrick's Day favour.

They want the monarch to turn Buckingham Palace emerald on the Irish national saint's day.

Some of world's most famous sights, including the Pyramids and Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer statue, will be going green on 17 March.

The Queen has not yet given permission for a changing of the colour at her official London residence.

Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said they were still awaiting a response from Buckingham Palace.

"I have written to the private secretary to the Queen, but we haven't had a reply yet," he said.

"We wrote a couple of months ago, but it is a dialogue that is in progress. I wouldn't be putting any pressure on people."

The tourism agency is expected to unveil details in the coming weeks about the previously unknown Irish roots of the Duchess of Cambridge, to help their case.

"We have actually traced Kate Middleton's Irish ancestry back as well. We have a report on it," Mr Gibbons said.

"We have an authenticated connection, with all the certificates and everything."

Other international attractions going green on 17 March include the Sydney Opera House, Niagara Falls, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Burj al Arab in Dubai, Table Mountain in South Africa, New York's Empire State Building and Berlin's TV Tower.

Image caption Tourism Ireland says the Duchess of Cambridge's Irish ancestry has been traced

The Irish Republic's tourism minister, Leo Varadkar, said a list has been drawn up of other globally-renowned structures and buildings that overseas Irish diplomats are targeting as part of the global greening initiative.

"It does arise that some of the ones we really want have asked for money and we can't justify spending large amounts of money," he said.

The entire scheme, which will also see the "greening" of New Zealand's Sky Tower, Vienna's Burg Theatre and the Prince's Palace in Monaco, is costing about 34,000 euros (£29,400).

Ireland is turning to its strong identity abroad, not least in the sprawling 70m-strong Irish diaspora, to help lift it out of an unprecedented economic crash.

It was hoped the visit of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh to Ireland two years ago, the first by a British monarch to the Republic since independence, would prompt a rise in the number of holidaymakers from the UK.

However, despite attempts to tap into the success of the trip, figures have so far been disappointing with visitor numbers down 3% last year.

"The British market is very difficult," Mr Varadkar said.

"Fewer British people travelled abroad last year than did 10 years ago, which is extraordinary if you think about it.

"And we still have a perception that Ireland is an expensive place to visit.

Now, all the research we have shows that this is improving and British people now coming to Ireland are going back and saying that Ireland isn't that expensive after all, hotels and accommodation in particular are very good value.

"But it will take a bit of time I think for that to filter through."