Prince Charles and Camilla head south to get a taste of the Áras

Royals set to cross Border for dinner with President Higgins and Sabina

Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla have begun their tour of Ireland with a reception at Áras an Uachtaráin hosted by President and Sabina Higgins. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, arrive in Dublin on Wednesday afternoon, where they will be greeted by President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina, at Áras an Uachtaráin.

They began a four-day visit to the island of Ireland by travelling to the spiritual heartland of the late Séamus Heaney in Bellaghy, Co Derry, on Tuesday.

The prince and duchess will sign the visitors’ book in the Áras, followed by a meeting between the President and Prince Charles. The President and Sabina will then accompany their guests to the Peace Bell in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin, before going on to meet a small group of young people who have excelled in the fields of sport, art, music, science, agriculture and advocacy.

The President and Sabina will host a private dinner for the British royals on Wednesday evening.

The royal couple will arrive in Kilkenny at about 10.30am on Thursday for a number of engagements until lunchtime. At Kilkenny Castle they will hear traditional music and watch a hurling match before travelling to Thomastown for a short visit before leaving at about 2.20pm. Gardaí have said Kilkenny will be “open for business as usual” and welcoming everyone hoping to see the royal visitors in person. Kilkenny city and Thomastown will be designated “no-fly zones” on Thursday for the visit, including a ban on the use of drones. It is part of a broader security operation mounted by gardaí, which will include the expected road closures, longer journey times and a warning to those wishing to catch a glimpse of the royal couple that large bags will not be allowed in certain areas.

However, any would-be sightseers are warned to arrive in good time and not to carry large luggage or other bags as they will not be allowed in certain viewing areas, although gardaí can facilitate certain exceptions by arrangement. Road closures begin in Kilkenny city from 5am and run to about 1.30pm.

Prince Charles will tour the United Nations Training School Ireland at the Curragh Camp on Thursday afternoon, while the duchess will visit the Irish National Stud in Kildare. In Dublin, Prince Charles also will meet Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Prince Charles smiles as he walks past a portrait of the late Seamus Heaney in Bellaghy. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Prince Charles smiles as he walks past a portrait of the late Seamus Heaney in Bellaghy. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Third visit

The royal visitors will go to Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin on Friday to commemorate those who lost their lives in the 1916 Easter Rising and the first World War. They will conclude their visit on Friday by attending a reception at the British ambassador’s residence.

This will be the couple’s third visit to the Republic in the past three years. In May 2015 they travelled to Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, where the prince’s great-uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, and three others were killed in an IRA bombing in 1979.

In Bellaghy on Tuesday, Prince Charles referred to Northern Ireland’s troubled past and to how Heaney was a poet who saw “difference as opportunities for understanding and exchange” and how in his home place he learned “what it is to belong and with grace and generosity extended that belonging to the world”.

Buckingham Palace said that, as on the two previous occasions, “this visit will showcase the strength and vitality of the connections between the United Kingdom and Ireland, and the friendship and partnership that has defined our relationship over recent years”.

“The prince and duchess’s programme will allow them to honour those men and women whose sacrifice in times of conflict shaped our two countries’ shared history; and to celebrate all that we do together to cement peace and secure a prosperous future,” the statement added.

The couple began their visit at lunchtime on Tuesday at the Heaney HomePlace arts and literary centre in Bellaghy, and also met the late poet’s widow, Marie, and children Christopher, Michael and Catherine.

Bellaghy performances

During the visit, students from Rainey postprimary school in Magherafelt, Co Derry, performed an excerpt from Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes in the centre’s 189-seater Helicon performance space.

Actor Laura Pyper read extracts from Heaney’s poem Clearances while local musicians conducted by Derry-born producer, arranger and musician Frank Gallagher played a suite of Irish music.

Prince Charles is an admirer of Heaney’s work and last October, for British national poetry day, recorded a reading of his poem The Shipping Forecast. Heaney also gave classes at two of the prince’s literary summer schools.

Heaney met the prince a number of times, describing him as “affable and smart in company”.

Prince Charles referred to how at Hillsborough Castle on Tuesday night Belfast composer Neil Martin is performing the world premiere of Song After Rain, which was commissioned by the prince and celebrates the three cultures on the island, Irish, Ulster Scots and English.

“I hope in some way, therefore, that this work will come to show how our varied histories, voices and traditions can come to create all the greater harmony when they come together,” the prince said. “After all, it is differences that make harmony possible even as it is the barriers that have been overcome that make friendship all the stronger.”

Prince Charles and Camilla also visited the Altnagelvin Hospital cancer centre in Derry, which provides treatment for patients from both sides of the Border.

ROYAL VISIT SCHEDULE

Wednesday afternoon: The prince and duchess will sign the visitors’ book at the Áras, followed by a meeting between the President and Prince Charles.

Wednesday night: the President and Sabina will host a private dinner for Prince Charles and Camilla.

Thursday morning: An engagement at Kilkenny Castle, where they will hear traditional music and watch a GAA hurling game.

Thursday afternoon: Prince Charles will tour the United Nations Training School Ireland at the Curragh Camp, while the Duchess of Cornwall will visit the Irish National Stud in Kildare. In Dublin, Prince Charles will also meet Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Friday morning: During the visit Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will visit Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin to commemorate those who lost their lives in the 1916 Easter Rising and in first World War.

Friday, 2.30pm: They will conclude their visit by attending a reception at the British ambassador’s residence in Dublin.