Prince Albert begins State visit


Prince Albert II of Monaco and his fiancee Charlene Whittstock have arrived in Ireland to begin a three-day State visit.

The couple’s trip takes place 50 years after the prince's late father and mother, Prince Rainier III and Hollywood actress Princess Grace, visited the country.

President Mary McAleese and her husband Dr Martin McAleese formally welcomed the prince at Áras an Uachtaráin this morning ahead of a series of engagements in Dublin.

The couple were welcomed by schoolchildren from St Joseph’s National school in Kilmessan, Co Meath, waving Irish and Monaco flags. They signed the visitors’ book before a full welcome ceremony including a 21-gun salute by the 2nd Field Artillery Regiment, from McKee Barracks.

The national anthems of both Ireland and Monaco were played to mark the start of the visit.

The prince inspected the guard of honour, made up of soldiers from the Army’s First Southern Brigade, along with Naval Service and Air Corps personnel.

Ms Wittstock stood with President McAleese during the ceremony, wearing a three-quarter length black coat and beige trouser suit.

The prince was introduced to the Irish reception party which included Taoiseach Enda Kenny; Ireland’s ambassador to Monaco Paul Kavanagh; Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan; and Defence Forces’ Chief of Staff Lieut Gen Sean McCann.

He also met the children from St Joseph’s, before attending a private meeting with President McAleese, her husband, Ms Wittstock, Mr Kavanagh, and Monaco’s honorary counsel in Dublin Howard Kilroy.

Prince Albert then planted an Irish oak in the garden of the Áras before leaving for his next engagement at the Garden of Remembrance in central Dublin with a motorcycle escort.

Security was tight around the Garden of Remembrance, where the prince was greeted by Minister for Defence Alan Shatter.

Troops from the 87th Cadet Class formed a guard of honour and the band from the Defence Forces School of Music performed the national anthem of Monaco before the prince slowly stepped forward to arrange a ribbon on a large wreath which was laid in honour of the dead by two soldiers.

Drops of rain fell in the sunshine during the short but poignant wreath-laying and the minute’s silence that followed.

The poem Rinneadh Aisling Duinn (We Saw A Vision), which is inscribed on the wall of the Garden of Remembrance, was read aloud in Irish by Lieut Tadhg Colbert of the 2nd Battalion, McKee Barracks.

As the Last Post was played, the Tricolour was raised to full mast. Amhrán na bhFiann was performed before the dignitaries left the Garden of Remembrance.

Prince Albert left in his car for a meeting with the Taoiseach, and his fiancee went to a private event at the Writer’s Museum in Parnell Square. The couple will visit Leinster House and the National Museum later today before returning to the Áras for a State dinner.

Officials said the visit will reflect the long-standing ties between Ireland and Monaco and will underline the potential for future co-operation in business, the environment, research, education, tourism and culture.

Tomorrow, the prince will visit Trinity College and tour the redeveloped Docklands area in the city before rounding the trip off at the Irish Marine Institute in Oranmore, Co Galway.

He will also inaugurate an exhibition in honour of the late princess Grace at Farmleigh House, where he will host a reception to highlight Irish literature and art.

Prince Albert is being accompanied by a delegation from the Monaco Chamber of Economic Development during certain events.