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Wednesday 23 October 2019

Royals show diplomacy as stubborn Brexit pall hangs over relations

Royal seal of approval: Charles and Camilla meet President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Royal seal of approval: Charles and Camilla meet President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Back like the swallows, Charles and Camilla could hardly hide their genuine delight to be on Irish soil once again.

This is a diplomatic visit, made - for the fifth year in a row - at the "request of the British government". All the while, the disturbing pall of Brexit - for the third year in a row - hangs over relations.

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During a visit to the Powerscourt House and Gardens, Charles seemed to scarcely resist hinting heavily at feelings of frustration as he said: "Whatever happens, the great thing is to go on understanding how much we mean to each other.

"I must say, you are always so incredibly kind and welcoming here in Ireland, and to put up with us yet again as we attempt to cover all the counties before we finally disintegrate completely," he added.

What "makes it special" coming to this country, he said, was being able to celebrate "all those absolutely vital links between us that go back so many hundreds, if not thousands, of years".

"To remind us of how much we depend on each other in so many ways. That, to me, is one of the great things about our relationship," he said.

The couples watch dance group Celtic Flair on a visit to Glencree. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
The couples watch dance group Celtic Flair on a visit to Glencree. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

He revealed that he chose to live at Highgrove mainly because it was under the care of "the most wonderful Irish man" who was "a great man for the horses".

"I remember he used to say me every now and then, 'I am just off to the library'," the prince recalled, adding: "Of course, what he was really doing was to put a very large bet on some special fancied horse he had, and he won an awful lot is all I can tell you."

At the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, Charles and his wife Camilla were met by President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina.

"It's wonderful to be back," Charles told the President, while Camilla told Mr Higgins: "How nice to see you again."

Ms Higgins told Camilla that she was looking "very well" and in a low voice, Camilla made some remark which warranted the sympathetic reply: "Aren't we all?"

Among the guests at Glencree were former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and former Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson, together with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. The British ambassador Robin Barnett was also present.

The royal couple sat in on a series of workshops discussing women's leadership, legacy and young peace-builders.

They met with survivors of the Troubles in the North, including Steven Travers, who was injured in the Miami Showband massacre in July 1975, when five people were killed by the UVF.

Afterwards, Mr Travers said that by visiting Glencree, he believed that Charles "was probably trying, in some way, to send a message".

"We got the impression that there was no harm in the man," he said.

"Him coming here is highlighting ordinary decent people being able to have a say."

Later, the couple visited Powerscourt House and the Cool Planet Experience on climate change, while afterwards, Camilla went alone to the Bray Women's Refuge, where she met privately with former residents "Aoife" and "Kate".

She thanked the staff for their work.

"I'd say the more you get to know them, the more you realise how important it is," she said.

Their day concluded with a dinner at the British ambassador's residence at Glencairn.

Irish Independent

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