FORMER President Mary McAleese and British Ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott led prayers at an ecumenical service for peace at Drumcliff parish church in Co Sligo this afternoon.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived at the church to the traditional Irish air ‘O’Carolan’s Welcome’ played on the harp by Ramune Sakalauskaite.
Hymns through the service were sung by students from Ursuline College, Sligo Grammar School, Mercy College and Summerhill College.
Among them was 17-year-old Bethany McLoughlin, whose grandfather Gerard McKinney was among the 13 people shot dead by British parachute regiment soldiers on Bloody Sunday in Derry on January 30, 1972.
Relatives of some of the 18 soldiers killed in the IRA bomb attacks at Narrow Water, Warrenpoint, - on the same day Lord Mountbatten was killed - were among the congregation.
Former President McAleese read a passage from the Old Testament while Ambassador Chilcott read from the New Testament.
Prayers at the Service of Peace and Reconciliation were led by the Church of Ireland Bishop Rev Ferran Glenfield and the Catholic Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran.
Bishop Doran told the congregation: “For many years, wherever one went in Europe, Ireland was synonymous with violence and that violence was often associated in peoples’ minds with religion. Like the bullying in the schoolyard, there was an ugly display of power.
“Beneath the surface, however, there was a great deal of ignorance and fear. There was an apparent inability to recognise the other as a person like myself, often notwithstanding the reality of our common Baptism.”
Bishop Glenfield said Britain and Ireland had emerged from “a century of trauma and trouble” but the service today showed how two nations had brpught “reconciliation out of wreckage”.
Prayers were said for all the victims of the Troubles.
After the service the royal couple visited the grave of poet WB Yeats.
They then planted a peace tree in the graveyard before the Prince met and chatted to Bethany McLoughlin.
The royal couple were also presented with a drawing of Drumcliffe Church by the Sligo artist Annie West.
Afterwards former President McAleese said the service had been ‘very emotional’ especially for the prince.
“After such a tragedy, most people would be able to rush to the scene, or visit it on anniversaries but that wasn’t possible for the prince. Today he is finally able to do that,” she said.