Prince Charles has attended his first ever event at the Irish Embassy in London, a forerunner to a state trip to Ireland by his mother which will take place in 2011.
Prince Charles accompanied by his wife Camilla, told the Embassy reception that Ireland and Britain must learn to become “subjects of our history, not its prisoners”.
“At the end of the day, we should never forget that our acquaintance has been long. We can turn that knowing into something new and creative – to no longer be victims of our difficult history with each other.
“Without glossing over the pain and suffering of the past, we can, I believe, integrate our history and memory in order to reap their subtle harvest of possibility. Imagination after all is the mother of possibility.
“I hope that we can endeavour to become the subject of our history, and not its prisoners,” said the prince.
He paid tribute to the Irish in Britain estimated at six million including those of Irish heritage for their incredible contribution to British life.
“The strength of the economic relationship between the two countries is illustrated by the fact that the two do more business together than the UK manages to do with China, he said.
The gathering was also attended by Bob Geldof, Ian Paisley, the former Ulster Unionist Party leader Lord David Trimble; former SDLP leader MP Mark Durkan and British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh.
Irish Ambassador Bobby McDonagh, an Oxford graduate, stated he was delighted to welcome the prince and the duchess: “The relations between our two countries have never been better; the only mode is one of friendship.”
Former top English television host Terry Wogan, born in Limerick, hailed the event but referred to tough times in Ireland.
Wogan said “People are a little depressed by the appalling economic situation but these are a people who have been through privation, starvation, oppression, discrimination, emigration, and they still come up smiling and singing.
Turning to Prince Charles he said “I hope that when your mother, Her Majesty the Queen, travels over to Ireland, she will enjoy a very warm welcome.”
Band Aid creator Bob Geldof said the visit to the Embassy by the prince showed a new maturity in the relationship and said those opposing the Queen’s visit to Ireland “should get over it”.