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Prince Charles’s visit to Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland a pilgrimage of peace

When The Prince of Wales shook hands with Gerry Adams last week, opinions were varied. After reporting on the tour and reading other people’s accounts and opinions, one believes, at least on Prince Charles’s part this was indeed a step forward to peace and reconciliation.

When Charles and Camilla visited Mullaghmore, they received a warm reception from those gathered to greet them. Of course, there were fringe groups on social media denouncing the visit. Prior to their arrival, six men were arrested during an operation targeting dissident republican activity.

But there were also those who remember that tragic day in 1979. The day Charle’s much-beloved uncle was assassinated along with three other innocent victims.

As Charles made the visit to see the site where Lord Mountbatten was murdered one could see the pain and anguish in his eyes. No words were needed for that moment as the photo of the prince does indeed speaks volumes.

It is perhaps the words Charles spoke prior to his visit that reached out to young and old that may have paved the way, however slowly to peace and reconciling.

“In August 1979, my much-loved great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was killed alongside his young grandson and my godson, Nicholas, and his friend, Paul Maxwell, and Nicholas’s grandmother, the Dowager Lady Brabourne. At the time, I could not imagine how we would come to terms with the anguish of such a deep loss since, for me, Lord Mountbatten represented the grandfather I never had. So it seemed as if the foundations of all that we held dear in life had been torn apart irreparably,” Charles stated.

“Through this dreadful experience, though, I now understand in a profound way the agonies borne by so many others in these islands, of whatever faith, denomination or political tradition,” he continued.

The moment where Charles brings the speech and his feelings full circle is when he stated: “As a grandfather now myself, I pray that his words can apply to all those who have been so hurt and scarred by the troubles of the past, so that all of us who inhabit these Atlantic islands may leave our grandchildren a legacy of lasting peace, forgiveness and friendship.”

Quoting Yeats, the prince noted: “For peace comes dropping slow.” The thoughts of those who returned to Sligo for the first time in 36 years may have intensified the personal wounds that have never stopped aching. But the words of Charles might, just might have offered some comfort.

It would not be just the visit to Sligo that would send a sort of proverbial olive branch to The Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland would see the future king reach out to them as well.

Charles and Camilla made an unannounced visit to St Patrick’s Church in Belfast.

Father Micheal Sheehan commented on the visit: “Hopefully it’s a small step forward,” Some people will be willing to follow that step, others may not yet be willing to follow that step on that journey, and others might never follow that step.”

He added: “I think that standing with solidarity is a very positive message coming from the prince.”

Even Martin McGuinness, the Irish Republican Sinn Féin politician and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, could not utter a negative word, at least publicly about this monumental visit by the prince and his wife.

McGuiness, who shook hands with Charles, outside of the church commented: “I think overall the visit has been very important in relation to what I think is the essential next step in the peace process – that of reconciliation.”

“Peacemaking is very difficult but if we are serious about peace and reconciliation, I think we all have to recognise there is a need to rise above old enmities. That is absolutely essential,” McGuiness added.

Whatever side of the debate one is on, there is no denying that the visit last week quite possibly gave a glimpse into what Charles’s agenda might be once he becomes king.

Featured photo credit: UKINSPAIN.FCO.GOV.UK via Flickr

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