I know how Prince Charles will feel at Lord Mountbatten murder scene, says mum of Mullaghmore blast victim
A mother who lost her son in the IRA bomb that killed Lord Mountbatten says she hopes Prince Charles finds solace when he visits Ireland next week.
The Prince will make an emotional pilgrimage to Mullaghmore in Co Sligo, the scene of the 1979 attack that claimed the life of his great-uncle.
Three other people died including Paul Maxwell, a 15-year-old schoolboy from Enniskillen. His mother, Mary Hornsey, said she believed the cross-border visit was another step towards reconciliation. "Every step means something," she told the Belfast Telegraph. "Although sometimes it seems just small steps, small steps are better than no steps at all." Mountbatten (79) was killed when the IRA blew up his fishing boat in the waters off Mullaghmore on August 27, 1979. His 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull also died, along with Paul, who had been working as a boat-boy. The Dowager Lady Brabourne, mother-in-law to Mountbatten's elder daughter, died of her injuries the following day.
Mountbatten was a much-loved mentor to the young Prince Charles, who was affected deeply by his death.
Ms Hornsey knows only too well the emotional impact which Wednesday's visit to Mullaghmore is likely to have on him.
"I think it is going to be very emotional for Prince Charles," she said. "But I think it will be cathartic for him as well, and I hope that he will feel close to his great-uncle, whom he loved and admired so much.
"I hope that happens for him."
The brief visit to Mullaghmore is the most poignant moment in the four-day trip, the first official joint visit by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to the Republic and Northern Ireland.
Ms Hornsey described the stop-off as "a gesture of goodwill".
"I think Prince Charles and Camilla are making a statement when they visit Mullaghmore," she added. "I hope that he will meet with kindness and respect, and I am sure that he will."
The royal visit has turned the spotlight back on Mullaghmore as the 36th anniversary of the attack approaches. For Ms Hornsey, however, it is an event that remains painfully ever-present.
"The fact that Prince Charles and Camilla are coming to Mullaghmore doesn't make it any more poignant, because it's always there," she added. "Since Paul died, I have tried to exist and grieve at the same time.
"It is a whole-encompassing thing when a mother loses a son. I think it's the worst possible thing. But you have to go on. You haven't got an option, really."
Paul's father, John Maxwell, still lives near Enniskillen. Now in his 70s, he did not want to be interviewed in depth, but said: "I am in favour of anything which contributes to good relations between the two countries."
The Prince has officially visited the Republic on two occasions, in May 1995 and February 2002. However, this will be his first time in Mullaghmore.
Charles and Camilla begin their four-day visit on Tuesday with a reception at the National University of Ireland, Galway, followed by a visit to the Republic's Marine Institute.
The royal couple visit Sligo on their second day, before arriving in Northern Ireland on Thursday.
Gardai say their security plan for the royal visits is based on the model drawn up for the visits of the Queen and US President Barack Obama in May 2011 when 8,000 officers were involved in the two operations, backed by the Irish Army, Air Corps and Naval Service.
Next week's plan will be a scaled down version of that model in terms of numbers but will still include a wide range of measures including surveillance, intelligence gathering, on-the-ground searches and protection in all the locations scheduled to be visited.
But while being comprehensive it will also be reflective of the changes in attitude in the Republic towards a visit of a member of the royal family over the past decade and a far cry from the grim days of August 1979.