Monday 18 June 2018

'We've found a new path to shared prosperity and security' - Prince Charles tells Ireland

The Prince of Wales as he attends a dinner at Crawford Art Gallery as part of his tour of the Republic of Ireland with the Duchess of Cornwall Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales as he attends a dinner at Crawford Art Gallery as part of his tour of the Republic of Ireland with the Duchess of Cornwall Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Tony Jones, David Young and Aoife-Grace Moore

The 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".

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.

Charles toasted his final night in Cork in Ireland's native language as he thanked the county for their "welcomes and hospitality".

He said: "You have been more kind and welcoming to us than we could ever believe possible.

"Our countries have travelled a troubled road together but reconciliation and understanding as our guide we have found a very important new path to share prosperity and security and together we are determined we must never lose our way again."

Before raising a glass to toast, Charles said: "To the President of Ireland and the people of Ireland and the special relationship between our two countries."

Charles and Camilla ended their trip to Co Cork at a private banquet in Crawford Art Gallery.

The dinner, hosted by Cork's Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald, celebrated the time the royal couple had spent in the county and involved many of the citizens the couple had met throughout the day.

The gallery holds some of Cork's most well-known local art and tributes to the famous faces who call the county home.

The dinner, held in an exhibition room, featured a menu showcasing the very best of local produce from Cork and the surrounding areas.

The royal couple head off on Friday for neighbouring county Kerry for the final day of their tour of Ireland.

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