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Prince's fond memories of his many trips across the Irish Sea

HIS wife is making her first visit to this country today, but the Duke of Edinburgh has been visiting for the past 70 years -- once on a secret basis.

The queen's husband, Prince Philip, once sneaked across the Northern Ireland border for a visit to Donegal in the 1940s, while on board a British Royal Navy vessel docked in Derry.

And on a later trip to Dublin, he was pleased to be greeted in Irish when he arrived at an official function.

In this country, the President's Gaisce awards, which recognise the activities of young people, are modelled on the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

Prince Philip's visits here in recent decades have been linked to Gaisce events.

During her term as chairperson of Gaisce, Fianna Fail senator Mary White met the prince and his son, Prince Edward.

On her first day as chairperson, she had to officially greet Prince Philip at Dublin Castle.

"I was told to greet him by saying 'hello sir'. I wasn't going to do that so I said 'ta failte romhat a dhuine uasal' and he was delighted to be greeted in Irish," she said.

Ms White told the prince how the Duke of Wellington had been a lieutenant at Dublin Castle.

The prince revealed his fond memories of a secret trip to Donegal for a social visit when he was a Royal Navy officer.

"I think he was in Derry and they went into Donegal. He had come in incognito," she said.

Ms White said she was struck by how well informed the prince was on Ireland.

"Contrary to public opinion, they were very au fait with Irish affairs. They're not as distant as people make them out to be. They were very professional," she said.

Irish Independent