Prince William: UK and Ireland must ‘work together’ after Brexit

British royal family ‘determined’ to play part in protecting bond between countries, says Duke

Britain's Duke and Duchess of Cambridge continued their official visit to Ireland which included a walk along the Howth cliffs in Dublin and a visit to Jigsaw, a organisation providing youth mental health services in the capital's city centre.

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The UK and EU’s changing relationship will require people to “work together” to ensure relations between Ireland and the UK remain “just as strong”, Britain’s Duke of Cambridge said.

In a speech at the last public engagement in Dublin before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge departed for Galway, Prince William addressed the post-Brexit challenges facing relations between the UK, Ireland and the rest of Europe.

Visiting the Museum of Literature Ireland on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin city centre, the second-in-line to the British throne spoke of the importance of bonds between people as well as international treaties that underpin new trading and political relations between countries.

In his only scheduled public remarks of the royal couple’s three-day visit to Ireland, Prince William – without mentioning Brexit – put the royal family front and centre in future efforts to maintain good relations between Ireland and the UK following Britain’s departure from the EU.

“Legal treaties are vital in underpinning the relationships between states. But relationships between people are equally, if not more essential, especially between the people of our two countries, whose lives, histories and futures are so deeply intertwined,” he said.

“I am confident that friendship, understanding and a shared vision for a peaceful and prosperous future will ensure that the unique and precious bond between our people is not broken.”

He added: “My family is determined to continue playing our part in protecting, preserving and strengthening that bond.”

‘How far we have come’

The prince’s remarks come after more than three years of protracted and difficult political negotiations between the EU and UK over the terms of Brexit that strained relations between Ireland and the UK to a level not seen since before the Northern Ireland peace process.

Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton were greeted at the museum by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. They were introduced to politicians including Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Labour leader Brendan Howlin and Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey.

Other Cabinet members in attendance at the event were Fine Gael Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Education Joe McHugh.

Among the exhibits he viewed at the museum were the first copy of the first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses signed by author.

In a thinly veiled reference to the UK’s departure from the EU, the 37-year-old prince said that “as we look ahead to some changes in our relationship, we must never forget how far we have come together in recent decades in transforming the relationships across our two islands”.

Prince William said “growing up” he remembered “seeing the Troubles that took place, which affected so many people across the UK and Ireland”.

This was why one of the “truly profound moments” for him and his wife on their visit was their attendance at the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square in Dublin, the memorial which honours those who fought against British rule.

‘Shared history’

The memorial was a “reminder of the complexity of our shared history”. Their visit to the garden was “also a reminder of how far we have come”, he said.

“It is right that we continue to remember those who suffered as a consequence of our troubled past. And whilst many wrongs have been done, it is important that we are not bound by these,” he said.

Prince William said the relationship between Ireland and the UK “goes far beyond two countries that are simply neighbours”.

“The links between our people, businesses and our culture are inextricable, and we should all be proud to see how strong those bonds are,” he said.

He praised the many people who deserve “our deepest gratitude for their hard work, imagination and, above all, courage in bringing about these profound changes.”

Recognising that young people may not remember the progress made in the peace process, the prince said that it was “vital that people of my generation, and generations to come, never take for granted the progress we have made together”.

“We must recommit ourselves to the path of friendship and understanding.”

‘Wonderful country’

Prince William concluded his speech with a toast “to the President of Ireland and to the people of this wonderful country in thanks for the warmth of your welcome on what I hope will be the first of many visits for us.”

He thanked an audience of about 100 people who attended the event.

Speaking before Prince William, Mr Coveney said that the duke’s decision to walk in the footsteps of his mother on her visit in 2011 - “not so much to the Guinness Storehouse” - but to the Garden of Remembrance was “profoundly important for Irish people.”

“In honouring the sacrifice of those who fought for Ireland’s independence, you are signaling, from a new generation of the British royal family, to a new generation here in Ireland - that same spirit, those same values,” said the Tánaiste.

He described the relationship between the UK and Ireland as one “of rare complexity and sometimes intensity” but one which was “powered at its core by the hundreds of thousands of people who live, work and move seamlessly between these islands every single day.”

“I am both hopeful and confident for the future of our relationship,” he said.

Mr Coveney joked that the couple would find Galway “a little bohemian” when they visited on Thursday but said that they had not really visited Ireland fully until they have visited his hometown of Cork.

“Both your father and grandmother will attest to that,” he said.

In a break from his prepared remarks, the Tanaiste told the duke that his three daughters had written cards to the couple’s three children “inviting your precious children to come to Ireland when they grow up.”

“Hopefully that you will crack a smile on your way home because I can assure you they don’t comply with normal protocols when someone normally writes to the royal family,” he said.