Prince Albert opens state visit

Prince Albert II of Monaco wished the Government every success tackling economic woes as he strolled through Dublin with his fiancée on a three-day State visit.

Prince Albert II of Monaco wished the Government every success tackling economic woes as he strolled through Dublin with his fiancée on a three-day State visit.

The royal and his bride-to-be Charlene Wittstock began by visiting President Mary McAleese, paying homage to those who gave their lives for Irish freedom and holding talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Flanked by heavy security, the couple walked five minutes in Dublin from the National Museum on Kildare Street to the historic Shelbourne Hotel, where a Princess Grace suite is named after his late mother who stayed there on her State visit.

Shaking hands with well-wishers along the way, the prince took time to talk about trade links between Monaco and Ireland, and whether he had any tips for the new Taoiseach.

“I’m not really a good economist myself but we have talked about it and I really wish the Government the best of success through these difficult times,” Albert said.

Later at a State dinner in Aras an Uachtaráin, the prince said the welcome they have received made the trip feel “more like a home-coming than a State visit”.

Ms Wittstock, who wore a stylish three-quarter length black coat and beige trouser suit by Swiss fashion designer Akris, smiled as she met excited well-wishers during their stroll.

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

Inside the museum, the royal got a step closer to the ancestral home of his Oscar-winning mother when he saw a hoard of gold ribbon torcs, bronze bracelet and amber beads from the Iron Age which were recovered in Dooyork, Co Mayo.

The prince earlier met President McAleese and her husband Martin at the Aras.

Schoolchildren from St Joseph’s National school in Kilmessan, Co Meath, waved Irish and Monaco flags during a ceremony, which included a 21-gun salute by the 2nd Field Artillery Regiment, from McKee Barracks.

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

Mr Kenny, Ireland’s ambassador to Monaco Paul Kavanagh, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Defence Forces’ Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Sean McCann were among the reception party.

Albert then planted an Irish oak in the garden of the Aras before he left the President’s home for the Garden of Remembrance, a memorial garden in the north inner city which honours the memory of all those who gave their lives for Irish freedom.

Security was tight as a small crowd gathered along the walls of the garden to catch a glimpse of Albert and his stunning fiancée, a South African Olympic swimmer.

As Albert arrived and was greeted by Defence Minister Alan Shatter and walked the length of the garden past the cross-shaped water feature with Lt Gen McCann, his fiancée followed, escorted by Brigadier General Dennis Murphy.

But with all eyes on him, the prince stumbled slightly as he walked up the steps towards the large sculpture based on the theme of the Children of Lir for a wreath laying ceremony.

Troops from the 87th Cadet Class formed a guard of honour as Albert slowly stepped forward to arrange a ribbon on a large wreath laid in memory 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 Dúinn (We Saw A Vision), which is inscribed on the wall of the Garden of Remembrance, was read aloud in Irish by Lieutenant Tadhg Colbert of the 2nd Battalion, McKee Barracks.

As the Last Post was played by the band from the Defence Forces School of Music, the Tricolour was raised to full mast, and Amhrán na bhFiann was performed before the dignitaries left the Garden of Remembrance.

Albert kissed Ms Wittstock on both cheeks before he left in his car for a meeting with Mr Kenny at Government Buildings and his fiancee went to a private event at the Writer’s Museum in Parnell Square.

The couple later attended a State Dinner at the Aras before visiting Trinity College, City Hall, Custom House and Farmleigh House tomorrow.

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

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