Monday 11 December 2017

Brexit doesn't figure as Charles and Camilla call on their old friends

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla pose for a picture with President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Photo: Collins
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla pose for a picture with President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Photo: Collins
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

They stood to admire a performance of 'O'Carolan's Concerto' on the harp and chatted to a group of young scientists about innovations in horse feed.

There was a chat to Annalise Murphy about her silver-medal winning sailing exploits in the Olympics and Camilla strolled with Sabina Higgins amid splendid sunshine in the organic walled garden.

Prince Charles and Minister Heather Humphreys in Glasnevin Cemetery. Pic Credit: Steve Humphries
Prince Charles and Minister Heather Humphreys in Glasnevin Cemetery. Pic Credit: Steve Humphries
Prince Charles shakes hands with Sein Fein leader Gerry Adams
Prince Charles in Glasnevin Cemetery
Prince Charles in Glasnevin Cemetery
Prince Charles during a visit in Glasnevin Cemetery. Pic Credit: Steve Humphries
Prince Charles and Minister Heather Humphreys in Glasnevin Cemetery
Prince Charles in Glasnevin Cemetery. Pic Credit: Steve Humphries
Prince Charles in Glasnevin Cemetery. Pic Credit: Steve Humphries
Prince Charles, HRH the Prince of Wales, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Pic Credit: Steve Humphries
Prince Charles, HRH the Prince of Wales, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny

In short, it was as relaxed and as comfortable as ever a visit could be between old friends - even with the looming gulf of Brexit.

But then, as an Irish official inquired of a British royal editor: "You aren't going anywhere, are you?"

The visit, which came "at the request of the British government", signalled an intent that this friendship, which once seemed so unlikely, will survive because of the simple fact that we will still be neighbours.

Pomp and ceremony was laid easily aside as Prince Charles and his wife Camilla paid a visit to President Michael D Higgins and First Lady Sabina Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin, with warm smiles abounding.

The Duchess of Cornwall meets local nursery school children in Dromore, Co Down. Photo: PA
The Duchess of Cornwall meets local nursery school children in Dromore, Co Down. Photo: PA

It was the start of their three-day visit here, which will take in Kilkenny today, along with a visit to the Curragh and National Stud.

The duchess was wearing an oatmeal-coloured light coat over a floral printed blue and cream dress and sensible tan shoes, while the Prince wore a suit of navy blue.

Sabina wore a dark navy suit with a lacy pattern while the President wore a dapper blue three-piece suit.

"What's the date?" inquired Prince Charles as he sat to sign the visitors' book in the State Reception Room at the table commissioned for his mother's momentous 2011 visit.

The answer was briefly murmured by a nearby official since everybody else seemed blissfully untroubled by such mundane details.

Then both couples stood before the cameras with the impatience of wedding guests keen for the party to get started.

Prince Charles marvelled at the number of TV cameras in the room.

Then it was off behind closed doors for a bi-lateral meeting, sustained by water and juice.

"There is no set agenda," said a spokesperson for the President. But given that this is the first royal visit since the Brexit vote, there seemed little doubt what was on the menu.

Camilla and Sabina had their own separate meeting - but then sensibly took it outside to the sunshine.

Together they stood and watched Dean Noah Afolabi (10), from Drogheda, Co Louth, and Tierna Bardon (13), from Newcastle, Co Down, chime the peace bell in the grounds of the Arás.

A collection of young people "in pursuit of excellence and ethics" had been gathered together at small intimate tables designed to facilitate easy chat.

Amongst them were sports starts like Niamh Briggs, the captain of the Irish Women's rugby team, and Annalise Murphy, Adam Harris of AsIAm.ie for people with autism, members of Macra and of BeLonGTo, an organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered young people.

"Everybody seemed like best friends," marvelled schoolgirl Annie Madden, from Meath, afterwards.

Given the Prince's environmental conscience, the President's gift of a sea life 'climate bell' by artist Vivienne Roche appeared to have been selected with the care of a true friend.

Irish Independent

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