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Tuesday 23 January 2018

State hopes Charles will attend 1916 ceremonies

Heir to British throne at Rising anniversary would be 'significant'

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are expected to attend the 1916 commemoration ceremonies in 1916. Photo: Getty Images
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are expected to attend the 1916 commemoration ceremonies in 1916. Photo: Getty Images
GOLDEN COUPLE: Visit by Kate Middleton, left, and Prince William would give tourism industry a lift

Fionnan Sheahan, Group Political Editor

The Government expects Prince Charles to attend the 1916 Easter Rising commemorations.

But the prospect of an internationally high-profile visit in the coming years by royal golden couple, William and Kate, is regarded as the real dividend from the burgeoning relationship with the royal family.

During President Michael D Higgins's State visit to the United Kingdom last week, Queen Elizabeth II promised a member of her family would participate in the 100th anniversary of the Rising.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also indicated the Government wanted to take up the offer and use the occasion to promote reconciliation between the two countries.

The Government believes a member of the royal family at the 2016 events will be a natural follow-on to Irish participation in events to mark the centenary of World War I.

"The hope here is this becomes seamless and part of the routine," a source said.

An official visit by the Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is viewed as the next step in the improved relations between the two countries.

Government sources close to both the Taoiseach and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore say the desire is for Prince Charles to attend the 1916 events.

"The leading figure you would be talking about would be Charles. That's what the speculation would focus on. That's the next big one. If not him, then William and Kate, but that's less likely for 1916. The conversations going on are about Charles. Everyone wants it to happen – both sides. You'd see it as someone really significant," a senior government source said.

"I can't see it being the Queen. Charles would be the next best. There's nothing decided but that would be the intelligent speculation in Government," another coalition source said.

The Government and Mr Higgins will play an important part in the centenary events around the start of World War I later this year, the Battle of the Somme in 2016 and the Armistice in 2018.

But the co-operation and attendance of a member of the royal family at the 1916 commemorations is being credited to former President Mary McAleese's attendance with the Queen at the opening of the memorial to the Irish dead of World War I at Messines in Belgium in 1998.

The inauguration was the first public event undertaken jointly by a British monarch and the President of Ireland.

"It was Mary McAleese [who] broke the mould by going to Messines. That set all this in train," a source said.

On foot of the strong relations with the royal family, the Coalition is also hopeful of a tourism-boosting visit by the golden couple of Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.

The royal couple are currently on tour with their baby, Prince George, in Australia and New Zealand and attracting worldwide media coverage.

Government officials believe a visit by 'Wills and Kate' has the potential to sell Ireland to a younger audience, particularly from the UK.

"It's like Tiger Woods playing at your golf tournament. They have the pulling power. She gets followed everywhere. You see her walking down a city street or at a tourist site. People of her age and ilk look at her in a different light," a government source said.

Sunday Independent

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