Britain’s Prince of Wales begins an emotional trip to the west of Ireland today where his great-uncle Louis Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA.
The most significant and poignant stop on the official four-day visit will be tomorrow when Charles arrives in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, the site of the atrocity.
On an August 27 1979, the 79-year-old cousin of Brtiain’s Queen Elizabeth was targeted by the IRA as he set off with family and a local boy to gather lobster pots and fish for shrimp less than 600m from the harbour of the peaceful fishing village.
Mountbatten was killed along with Doreen Brabourne, the 83-year-old mother-in-law of the earl’s daughter, his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull and 14-year-old Paul Maxwell, from Enniskillen.
Charles, who is said to be excited by the prospect of his first official visit to Ireland in 13 years, will be in Mullaghmore following a service of peace and reconciliation at St Columba’s Church, in nearby Drumcliffe.
Visiting the site of his great-uncle’s murder and combining it with the themes at the prayer service a few miles away is widely seen as the next phase in ever deepening relations, friendships and bonds between the UK and Ireland.
Some representatives from Sinn Féin will take part in some events but the party has not revealed which.
Joined by his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Charles will also visit the grave of WB Yeats, who is buried under the shadow of Benbulben.
On the eve of the trip, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said: “The visit programme celebrates the depth and potential of 21st century Irish-British links, while also acknowledging more difficult moments from the past.”
“I recall that the Prince of Wales had made peace and reconciliation central themes in his previous official visits in 1995 and 2002, both of which came during important stages of the Northern Ireland peace process.
“Reconciliation and dealing with the past are issues that can still challenge us, and were the subject of the Stormont House Agreement reached in Belfast last December. We are now working hard to realise the potential of that agreement.”
It will be the royal couple’s first official engagement in Ireland but not the first time in the country for either as both have visited many times in a personal capacity including the prince’s trips to the Duke of Devonshire’s Lismore Castle in Co Cork.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin last night confirmed that party leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness will meet the royal couple.
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