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‘Peace & reconciliation’ main themes of Prince Charles and Camilla’s first day in Ireland

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall began their visit on Tuesday as the arrived at Shannon Airport in County Clare, Ireland.

Welcoming Charles and Camilla were Shannon Group Chairman Rose Hynes, CEO Neil Pakey, chairman of the joint Oireachtas committee on foreign affairs and Clare TD Pat Breen and Deputy Mayor of Clare County Council Joe Cooney.

“We were delighted to welcome the Prince and Duchess here to Shannon and it was another very important day for us at the airport. Prince Charles was very relaxed and was looking forward to his visit,” Ms Hynes commented.

During his conversation with Hynes, Charles expressed his desire to visit Burren. Ms Hynes: “I explained to him that I was from the Burren, and he said that the author and poet John O’Donoghue had always wanted him to come to the Burren. I knew John O’Donoghue personally and said to Prince Charles that John would be delighted today if he were still alive to know that the visit was happening.”

Neil Pakey upon the arrival of the royal couple: “Both Prince Charles and the Duchess seemed very pleased to be here. Prince Charles was, in particular, looking forward to getting a look at the Cliffs of Moher as he flies up to Galway. He thought it would be a wonderful view from the air. It was quite windy here on arrival, but the Duchess said she was pleased to be here and that the weather was no different to home.”

Charles and Camilla went on to attend a welcome reception at the National University of Ireland Galway on Tuesday afternoon. There, The Prince and Duchess met local people and viewed Irish crafts, dancing and music.

During the reception, the meeting between Prince Charles and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was undoubtedly part of the day many if not most looked forward to seeing. The historic handshake that occurred between Charles and Adams perhaps is a step in the right direction.

The handshake represented the first meeting in the Republic of a member of the British royal family with Sinn Féin since partition. Three years ago, Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness shook hands with Queen Elizabeth in Belfast’s Lyric Theatre.

Charles agreed to the meeting after a request by the Sinn Féin president. The two men smiled as they shook hands for several seconds and exchanged words at NUI Galway.

The Queen and Mr McGuinness held a one-to-one meeting during her visit to Northern Ireland in June last year.

Prior to the reception, Adams commented: “I don’t have any expectations other than this being an engagement which I hope is symbolic and practical, and will assist that entire process,” he said.

Prince Charles commented during the University reception: “You have a wonderful spirit you really do, and there is a unique magic about Ireland, which is totally irresistible.”

Before they signed the visitors book, the royal couple was presented with a WB Yeats rose. Prince Charles then noted: “Thank you again for such a really wonderful welcome”

To mark their visit, Charles and Camilla planted an oak tree.

Following the reception, Charles and Camilla went their separate ways as they each had different engagements scheduled for their first day.

Charles’s solo engagements began with a visit to the Marine Institute, Ireland’s national agency responsible for marine research, technology, development, and innovation.

Charles, who founded the International Sustainability Unit in 2010 to try to promote a consensus on key environmental challenges, has shown a particular concern in hearing about the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans.

Following his visit to the Marine Institute, Prince Charles made a stop in the Burren. There he viewed the rare landscape and discovered some of the challenges the farming community is facing.

The word “Burren” comes from an Irish word “Boíreann” meaning a rocky place. A fitting name due to the lack of soil cover and the range of exposed Limestone Pavement. Nevertheless, it has been known in the past as “Fertile Rock” due to the blend of nutrient rich herb and floral species.

The Duchess of Cornwall started a set of her engagements by visiting Claddagh National School. There she met students taking part in the Suas literacy support programme before joining a school assembly.

After her school visit, Camilla marked the 40th anniversary of the Druid theatre by watching a short performance and attending a reception for supporters.

The final solo event on Tuesday saw The Duchess laud regional food and drink from the Wild Atlantic Way at the House Hotel. There she sampled local cheeses and a special drink in her honour: ‘The Duchess,’ which consisted of Irish Dingle gin and elderflower liqueur, topped with Mumm Champagne and a dusting of lemon.

Charles and his wife will join President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, and his wife, Mrs Sabina Higgins for a private dinner at Lough Cutra Castle on Tuesday evening.

Tomorrow the royal couple have a full slate of events in County Sligo.

Their visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland was at the request of the British Government and will continue until 21st May. Charles and Camilla will then make a two-day visit to Northern Ireland from 21st – 22nd May.

Featured photo credit: Andy Gott via Flickr

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