Prince Charles in Galway: ‘You raise our spirits in so many ways’

Peace and reconcilation comprises abiding theme on the first day of royal couple’s visit

Some 24 hours after the historic handshake and private meeting with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, Britain's Prince Charles is due to visit Mullaghmore harbour in Co Sligo where his great-uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb 36 years ago.

However, peace and reconciliation was the dominant theme during the first day of the British royal couple's visit to the west of Ireland, with Prince Charles paying tribute to a "magic about Ireland that is totally unique".

"Having first had the privilege of coming to Ireland in 1995 and then again in 2002, each time I have been so overwhelmed and so deeply touched by the extraordinary kindness, the welcome and indeed the fun of being in Ireland," he said at NUI Galway.

“Apart from anything else, the chance of plenty of good jokes and laughter make the whole difference to life,”he added. “You raise our spirits in so many ways.”


Accompanied by his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles was welcomed on touchdown at Shannon Airport on Tuesday morning by Oireachtas foreign affairs committee chairman Pat Breen (FG).

The couple were taken by helicopter to Galway where they were greeted on campus by Tánaiste Joan Burton, Minister for the Arts Heather Humphreys and NUIG president Dr Jim Browne.

The public had limited sight of the arrival due to tight security and road closures, but a peaceful protest included members of the Socialist Workers Party, Republican Sinn Féin, the Galway Anti-Monarchy Group and NUIG students campaigning for gender equality.

The duchess was presented with a bouquet of English roses before the couple were led into a marquee in NUIG’s quadrangle, exhibiting a flavour of arts, crafts and culture. They were presented with a woollen blanket and a willow rattle, woven by basketmaker Ciarán Hogan, for “the newborn princess, Charlotte”.

Prefacing his remarks with some Irish – “a dhaoine uaisle” – Prince Charles spoke of Ireland’s “magic”, admitted to being “a little too old to learn the steps of the Irish dancing routine” and spoke of the “fun” of being here.


Some 150 people at the reception included

Fianna Fáil

leader Micheál Martin and Mr Adams, with whom Prince Charles shook hands. The couple then planted an oak tree behind the quadrangle.

After his private discussion with Mr Adams and Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Prince Charles left by motorcade for the Marine Institute, where he was met by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney.

The prince was given briefings by chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan and by researchers including University College Cork geology professor Dr Andy Wheeler, Dr Paul Connolly, Dr Margaret Rae and Mick Gillooly.

When Dr Wheeler presented him with a 330 million-year-old piece of fossil coral from Streedagh, near Mullaghmore in Co Sligo, the prince was quick to note that the fossil was “as old as the Burren”.

Before departing for Co Clare, he was briefed on the first transatlantic mapping survey to take place under the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance between the EU, Canada and US.

The prince said he would love to return again to the unique Burren landscape after he spent close to an hour in the karst landscape, meeting local farmers Pat Nagle (67) and his son Oliver (42), who live near Slieve Carran and are involved in the BurrenLIFE conservation project.

He was briefed on the work of the Burren Beo Trust programme by Dr Brendan Dunford, and met children from two primary schools in Boston and Carron who are graduates of the Burren Beo eco-programme.


The duchess undertook an impromptu walkabout during her afternoon in Galway city, which began with a welcome by principal

Michael Gallagher


Claddagh National School

, where she met participants of the Suas homework club and heard the school’s choir. She met “king of the Claddagh”

Mike Lynskey

and was presented with a Claddagh brooch.

After that, the duchess was treated to the opening scene of DruidShakespeare's Richard II at the Mick Lally Theatre, where she met artistic director Garry Hynes and cast.

Her final engagement in the city was a food sampling, where she was given a cocktail of Dingle gin, elderflower liqueur and champagne.

The Tánaiste joined President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina at the private dinner for the royal couple last night in Lough Cutra Castle, south Galway.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times