PEOPLE across the world traditionally wear green to mark Saint Patrick’s Day, but the celebrations, which boost Irish food and beverages, tourism, and the country’s heritage, will be significantly curtailed this year because of the coronavirus and the international effort to stop it spreading.
The number of government ministers travelling abroad to promote Ireland has been drastically reduced, but, last week, the natural beauty of the landscape was advertised worldwide
British royals Prince William and his wife, Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, made a three-day, official, post-Brexit visit to Dublin, Meath, Kildare, and Galway, during which they heard all about sustainable farming, quality beef production, the environment, marine conservation, and biodiversity.
Theirs was a carefully balanced itinerary that focused on political, cultural, and community events and the historic links between Britain and Ireland. But on the second day of the visit, something happened that brought smiles to the faces of Tourism Ireland.
The Duke and Duchess went for a stroll on the Hill of Howth, taking in the fresh air and glorious sunshine, with the still, blue waters of Dublin Bay providing a picture postcard backdrop to a scenic mosaic of green fields, yellow furze, and panoramic views.
The royals stopped for a quick chat with some people who live in the area, sharing their thoughts about how great the natural landscape is and how friendly the people were.
After meeting with the couple, Environment Minister Richard Bruton said they remarked: ‘You couldn’t come to Ireland and not see the coastline.’ “So, they got their wish.”
What’s more, the royal couple indicated to locals their desire to come back with their children, George, Charlotte, and Louis, for a cycling tour and to see more of the countryside. There is certainly a lot to see.
Ireland’s first way, the Wicklow Way, which was opened in 1982, marked the trail, and since then more than 4,000 kilometres of routes have been established in the Republic, along with greenways that are popular with both walkers and cyclists. The trails have been designed for people of all ages, and of reasonable health and fitness, and are planned so that, in the right conditions, anyone should be able to enjoy them at their own pace.
Tourism Ireland chief executive, Niall Gibbons, said the visit by the Duke and Duchess was a wonderful opportunity to showcase Ireland to a huge audience of prospective holidaymakers across Britain and has the potential to boost Irish tourism.
Mr Gibbons said Tourism Ireland would take every opportunity to exploit the tourism potential of the extensive publicity around the visit. Last year, 4.7m British visitors came to the island of Ireland.
During their visit to Howth, the royals discussed with the Marine Institute the vital role of the ocean and actions to safeguard it for future generations.
Dr Paul Connolly, chief executive of the Marine Institute, said he was delighted to meet with the couple to talk about shared interests in protecting our oceans and adapting to a changing climate.
“Our oceans are fundamental to life on earth. They unite us; yet they face a multitude of challenges. Our focus in the Marine Institute is to further our understanding of our changing ocean.
“Our enhanced knowledge and services help us to observe these patterns of change and identify the steps to safeguard our marine ecosystems for future generations,” he said.
Eimear Manning, all Ireland Ocean youth ambassador, spoke with the duke and duchess about ways to engage with communities, schools, and businesses to introduce behavioural change initiatives and programmes for the marine environment.
They also met with Kieran Crowley, chairman, and Yvonne Shields O’Connor, chief executive, Irish Lights, at the Baily Lighthouse in Howth.
Mr Crowley said they discussed the long-standing historic relationship between Britain and Ireland to ensure safety at sea for mariners through their network of lighthouses, buoys, and electronic aids to navigation.
“We recognise the hugely valuable work their Royal Highnesses are doing in relation to climate change and marine conservation, which is very relevant to the service that we provide,” he said.
Agriculture, Food, and Marine Minister, Michael Creed, earlier welcomed the royal couple to the Teagasc research centre and farm, in Grange, Co Meath, where they were also greeted by Liam Herlihy, chairman, and Professor Gerry Boyle, director.
Mr Herlihy, who presented the duke and duchess with a gift of a 5,000-year-old piece of Irish bog oak, explained to the British media how Ireland, a grass-based country, produces quality beef in harmony with the environment.
“The countryside is looking well and farmers take good care of their animals. It’s important to showcase the manner in which the animals are being treated, and the care for the environment, which is hugely important from a sustainability point of view,” Mr Herlihy said.
Prince William is preparing to one day inherit the 130,000-acre Duchy of Cornwall, from his father, Prince Charles, a globally recognised champion of organic farming and sustainability.
The Duke revealed to ITV, in a documentary last October, that his children are already playing on tractors and that his son, George, is obsessed with agriculture.
Speaking of his own love for all things farming and rural life, Prince William admitted he is “very passionate” about agriculture: “I just want to learn more about it.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge learned a lot about sustainable farming and biodiversity during their visit to Grange and Howth. They were said to be interested and informed and may well return as their interest in rural life develops.
Perhaps, they also had similar experiences to the Duke’s father, Prince Charles, who has been to Ireland several times with his wife, Camilla.
He remarked, during a visit to the Irish embassy in London 10 years ago, that he always comes back with his spirits raised from having met Irish people.