Prince Charles paid an emotional visit yesterday to Mullaghmore Harbour in Co. Sligo, where his great-uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed in an IRA attack in August 1979.
“At the time I could not imagine how we would come to terms with the anguish of such a deep loss since, for me, Lord Mountbatten represented the grandfather I never had,” he said earlier in the day, during a speech at Sligo’s Model Arts Center.
Mountbatten holidayed every summer at Classiebawn Castle near the harbor. On August 27, 1979, he was killed in a bomb attack carried out by the IRA.
He had, along with family and friends, embarked on a lobster-potting and angling expedition when a bomb on board was detonated just a few hundred yards from the harbor.
He died of his injuries, along with his grandson Nicholas Knatchbull (14), local boy Paul Maxwell (15), who was helping on the boat, and Lady Brabourne (83), his eldest daughter’s mother-in-law.
That day was one of the deadliest of the Troubles, as 18 British soldiers were also killed in Co. Down.
Prior to visiting Mullaghmore, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla attended a peace and reconciliation prayer service at St. Columba’s church in Drumcliffe, Co. Sligo and also visited the grave of W.B. Yeats.
Earlier in the day, he delivered an address at The Model, an arts center in Sligo. The poignant speech did not gloss over the turbulent history between Ireland and the UK, and Prince Charles referred to the way in which his own loss made it easier to understand the losses on all sides during the Troubles.
Powerful and poignant: Britain's Prince Charles' delivers speech in Sligo #RoyalVisitIreland https://t.co/lfnZfU3raa— Lynsey Kiely (@lynseykiely) May 20, 2015
“Our current, blessed era of friendship and cooperation is not, however, founded on pretending that the past did not happen. We all have regrets,” he said.
Recalling his mother, Queen Elizabeth’s words during her 2012 visit to Ireland, he added, ‘‘With the benefit of historical hindsight, we can all see things, which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.’ I am only too deeply aware of the long history of suffering which Ireland has endured, not just in recent decades but over the course of its history.
“It is a history which, I know, has caused much pain and much resentment in a world of imperfect human beings where it is always too easy to over-generalize and to attribute blame.
“At the end of the day, however, we should never forget that our acquaintance has been long; and we can turn that knowing into something new and creative. We need no longer be victims of our difficult history with each other.
“Without glossing over the pain of the past, we can, I believe, integrate our history and memory in order to reap their subtle harvest of possibility.”
Recalling his immense pain at his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten’s death, he said, “In August 1979, my much-loved great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was killed alongside his young grandson and my godson, Nicholas, and his friend, Paul Maxwell, and Nicholas’s grandmother, the Dowager Lady Brabourne.
“At the time I could not imagine how we would come to terms with the anguish of such a deep loss since, for me, Lord Mountbatten represented the grandfather I never had.
"So it seemed as if the foundations of all that we held dear in life had been torn apart irreparably.
“Through this dreadful experience, though, I now understand in a profound way the agonies borne by so many others in these islands, of whatever faith, denomination or political tradition.”
Charles and Camilla concluded their Wednesday itinerary with a trip to the Sligo races.
On Tuesday the couple, who landed at Shannon Airport, was welcomed by the Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minster) Joan Burton at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG). Among the guests were Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.
The went on to visit the Burren, in County Clare, fulfilling one of Charles’ life-long goals, by exploring the karst landscape for almost an hour.
Today and Friday they will travel to Northern Ireland. Their engagements will include a reception and a concert featuring a selection of local performers at Hillsborough Castle.
They will make a trip to Mount Stewart House and gardens, to mark the completion of a three-year restoration program. A visit to Corrymeela, Northern Ireland's oldest peace and reconciliation center, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is also on the agenda.