Belfast Telegraph

Prince Charles: Curtain falls on historic royal visit steeped in positives

Prince's tribute to the province at Corrymeela

By Amanda Ferguson

The Prince of Wales has said the story of Northern Ireland is seen around the world as a shining example of what can be achieved when people commit themselves to ending conflict.

Prince Charles was speaking at the Corrymeela peace and reconciliation centre in Ballycastle on Friday at the end of his historic four-day trip to the island of Ireland with the Duchess of Cornwall.

The prince hailed the centre, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, as somewhere that had "given peace a home".

He quoted poet Helen Waddell, from Northern Ireland, who died 50 years ago this year.

"In one haunting poem, she talks about how ultimate peace, how the divine, is encountered in human contact, in community.

"In her poem, the speaker, seeking solace in her spirit, contemplates walking the windswept landscape of the Ulster coast, and she asks: 'Would you think Heaven could be so small a thing As a lit window on the hills at night?'

"She is saying, I believe, that it is in the intimate, necessary setting of the everyday that the great issues must be, and can be, resolved."

In terms of the ongoing process of healing, he spoke movingly about the importance of "uncomfortable conversations" and the "suffering on all sides".

"Indeed, Corrymeela is a beneficiary of the fund set up in memory of my godson, Nicholas Knatchbull, who was killed at Mullaghmore in 1979 along with his grandfather and my beloved great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, his young friend, Paul Maxwell, and his grandmother, the Dowager Lady Brabourne," the prince said.

"Our visit to Sligo this week allowed my wife and I to spend time in a place which the victims of that tragedy held so dear, and also to attend, at Drumcliffe Church, an immensely moving service of reconciliation for the hurts of the past, which have been suffered, as you and I know all too well, by all sides. From our shared wounds and scars, we can, I hope, I pray, share healing, and a friendship made all the stronger for the trials it has overcome."

He added: "We have all suffered too much. Too many people's loved ones have been killed or maimed. Surely, it is time, as I said in Sligo two days ago, that we become the subjects of our history and not its prisoners."

Co-operation Ireland chief executive Peter Sheridan described the royal visit as "very progressive and successful".

"I think it was a demonstration of the need for reconciliation and that we can examine the past, understand it, and we can transcend it, because that was what happened this week," he said.

"Everything that happened has been hugely important. There has been genuine personal healing."

John Fitzpatrick, chairman of the American Ireland Fund, also praised the royal visit as a positive step forward for everyone.

"It is all about us looking to the future and the next generation," he said.

"Like all the royal visits we have had, I think he will be as pleasantly surprised by the response as we have been.

"The whole visit has been very special."

DUP MP for North Antrim, Ian Paisley Jnr, was thrilled to welcome the prince and duchess to his constituency.

"It has been a very good visit and I think it shows the care and compassion they have for the people here, that not only do they want to be trailblazers in the peacemaking process in the south of Ireland but they also want to make sure their citizens in Northern Ireland know that they love this place," he said.

Among those to meet the prince yesterday were Ballycastle schoolchildren Katie McKiernan (9) and Shay Delaney.

They gave him a tour of Corrymeela's poly tunnel.

"I was talking about the names of flowers," Katie said. "He said it was nice to meet me."

Shay (11) added: "He was asking me about the plants and when they would be ready. He was nice."

As the royal couple were leaving Corrymeela for home, Prince Charles helped to plant an apple tree in the grounds to mark this visit.

"I hope one day, God willing, I can come back and have an apple off it," he said.

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