Prince Harry hails ‘unique’ Irish-UK relationship during Dublin visit

Brian O'Driscoll asks royal if football is 'coming home' as he and Meghan Markle attend garden party

Spectators waited for over an hour to get a glimpse of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry as they arrived at Government Buildings to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

 

Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, hailed the “unique” relationship between Ireland and the UK when he spoke to guests at a garden party at the British ambassador’s residence in Dublin.

In his only public remarks on a two-day visit - the first with his wife Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, since their May wedding - the prince struck both a serious and humorous tone in his four-minute speech to guests at Glencairn in Sandyford.

He opened his remarks with a few words in Irish, addressing Tánaiste Simon Coveney, British ambassador Robin Barnett and “a dhaoine uaisle,” following up quickly with: “Did I get that right?”

He did and guests cheered in response.

“There are more rugby people than we originally thought,” he joked in response to the raucous cheer.

The Taoiseach looks on as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex sign the visitors’ book at Government Buildings on Tuesday. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Pool/AFP/Getty Images.
The Taoiseach looks on as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex sign the visitors’ book at Government Buildings on Tuesday. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Pool/AFP/Getty Images.

He thanked everyone for the “warm welcome we’ve received since being in this beautiful country” and he thanked the Tánaiste for showing his father, Prince Charles, around Cork when he visited last month.

“And it was also very nice to know that he didn’t bore you senseless,” he said of his father.

The prince, sharing the podium with the Duchess, the Tánaiste and the ambassador, said his father and grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, had spoken warmly with him of the visits they enjoyed here in Ireland.

‘First of many’

He and his wife were “so pleased” to make Ireland their “first international visit together as a married couple” and hoped that it would be “the first of many”.

“As each other’s closest neighbours, the UK and Ireland’s relationship is unique; our shared history is long and complex. There have of course been challenging and at times tragic period of that relationship,” he said.

He closed with President Michael D Higgins’s remarks on his visit to the UK in 2014: “We live in each other’s shadows; we shield each other, and rely on each other for shelter.”

The prince said that sentiment was “as apt now as it was then, as we draw strength from one another as neighbours, partners and above all friends”.

The prince, wearing a navy suit, and the Duchess, in a black knee-length cocktail dress designed by Emilia Wickstead, chatted with guests that included former president Mary Robinson, former taoiseach Enda Kenny and members of the Cabinet including Simon Harris and Josepha Madigan.

Among the guests were people from the worlds of sports and the arts, who assembled in “pods” on the lawn of the ambassador’s residence.

The possibility of England winning the World Cup was an icebreaker in conversations with the Royal visitors.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive at Dublin Airport on Tuesday on their first royal engagement overseas as a married couple. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive at Dublin Airport on Tuesday on their first royal engagement overseas as a married couple. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

Former Leinster and Ireland rugby player Brian O’Driscoll said he asked the prince: “Is it coming home?” referring to whether England would win.

“He didn’t jump at me immediately saying ‘yes it was’, so I am thinking there is either humility or he is not sure whether he is coming home or not,” said O’Driscoll.

Actor and author Amy Huberman told the prince that she attended the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton on her own as O’Driscoll could not fulfill the invite as he was playing for Leinster. She referred to her husband’s circle on the greeting line as the “Bod pod.”

Gobsmacked

Vicky Phelan, the Limerick woman whose case exposed the controversy around the CervicalCheck screening programme, said she was gobsmacked when the Duchess told her she had heard about her story.

“She said: ‘I have been following your story; you have been doing some great stuff’,” said a dumbfounded Phelan.

Actor Barry Keoghan said he previously met the prince at the UK premiere of Dunkirk, the movie he starred in.

“He’s cool, yeah. It was nice,” he said. “At the Dunkirk premiere it was a bit more serious with veterans there. With this, he stood and had his chat with us.”

Introducing the Duke, Mr Coveney welcomed that “the new generation of the British Royal Family” were continuing to “nourish” Anglo-Irish ties as “the countries seek to navigate a shared and difficult history.”

Remarking on England’s success in the World Cup, Mr Coveney said that it was the “first time I can remember that there are probably as many people cheering for England as against England”.

There was, however, a hesitant and muted round of applause when he said he would like to see England win the World Cup.