Thursday 21 November 2019

'We have found a new path to shared prosperity and security' - Britain's Prince Charles on good relations between UK and Ireland

Britain's Prince of Wales during a visit to the Naval Base, near Cork as part of his tour of Ireland Charles McQuillan/PA Wire
Britain's Prince of Wales during a visit to the Naval Base, near Cork as part of his tour of Ireland Charles McQuillan/PA Wire Newsdesk Newsdesk

Britain's Prince of Wales has said the good relations the UK and Ireland have enjoyed in recent years will survive as the two nations resolve "shared challenges".

Prince Charles made the prediction in a speech to mark his visit to Ireland, and is likely to be interpreted by commentators as partly referring to the Brexit problem of the Northern Ireland and Republic border.

The 2011 visit by the Queen to Ireland was seen as a watershed moment in Anglo-Irish relations, ushering in closer ties between the two nations as they reconciled their difficult shared histories.

But the Brexit issue of how to create a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is proving a major stumbling block to Britain leaving the EU.

There are concerns that, if a hard border with infrastructure and guards returns, it could ultimately threaten the peace the north has enjoyed following the Good Friday Agreement.

Charles, who was joined by the Duchess of Cornwall, is making his fourth successive visit to Ireland and said of relations between the UK and the Republic: "With reconciliation and understanding as our guides, we have found a new path to shared prosperity and security, and we are determined that we must never lose our way again.

"If I may say so, this is precisely why I have felt it of such importance that we should keep coming to Ireland - to demonstrate, in whatever small way we can, just how vital and valuable the ties between our countries are to us all."

Speaking at Cork City Hall to an audience of local politicians, business people and civic leaders, the prince said: "On each visit we have met so many unforgettable people who are doing such noteworthy things to strengthen that relationship, in almost every imaginable sphere.

"I therefore have nothing but the greatest confidence that the friendship, collaboration and mutual understanding that Ireland and the United Kingdom have enjoyed over recent years will endure, as we work together to find solutions to shared challenges and as our relationship evolves in the months and years ahead."

Charles and Camilla began their visit to Cork by following in the footsteps of the Queen and visiting the city's famous English Market - famed for its regional produce and food from across the globe.

During the tour of the historic food hall, baker Michael Hassett presented the royal couple with cupcakes bearing their picture.

"It was hilarious," he said.

"They really enjoyed it. They were delighted to see the picture we picked - it was very flattering."

Pat O'Connell, the owner of a fish stall, showed the royals fresh salmon caught a short distance from the market in the River Lee.

He said: "It's been an incredible visit. It's fantastic for Cork city, fantastic for the English market and fantastic for local Irish produce."

Mr O'Connell said the welcome afforded to the prince was evidence of how far relations between the UK and Ireland have improved.

He added: "I think he expected a good welcome but this was way more than he expected really. It's how far we've come and let's keep going on that road."

Charles and Camilla attended separate events during the day, with the prince visiting the National Maritime College of Ireland near Cork.

He was left impressed by the apparent sensation of a ship in stormy waters when he stood on the bridge of a simulator.

Later he visited the nearby headquarters of the Irish Navy.

The heir to the throne stepped on board the off-shore patrol vessel which the simulator was based on - thought to be the first time a member of the royal family has boarded an Irish naval vessel.

Meanwhile the duchess visited a women's refuge in Cork which has supported the victims of domestic violence for more than 40 years, offering counselling and support for women and children.

Camilla hailed the work of the refuge for letting women know "they are not alone".

She presented a hamper to the refuge filled with sweets, chocolate and fudge for the children who live there. She also met the artist in residence who works with children through art therapy.

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