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Prince Charles visits Corrymeela: 'A model to all who strive for peace and reconciliation'

By Michael McHugh

The Prince of Wales has said Northern Ireland should not be imprisoned by its history as he called for shared healing between the divided communities.

Charles visited the country's oldest peace and reconciliation centre today at the conclusion of a trip which has been all about healing past wounds.

The daughter of Lord Mountbatten has supported the Corrymeela Centre on the dramatic North Coast for years in its work with victims of violence on all sides.

Charles paid tribute to his great uncle earlier this week during a poignant visit to the scene of his 1979 killing by the IRA on a boat off the west coast of Ireland.

He said: "By 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.

"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 became the subjects of our history and not its prisoners."

Earl Mountbatten, who enjoyed summer holidays for decades at nearby Classiebawn Castle, was blown up on board the pleasure boat Shadow V after he set out from the harbour at Mullaghmore along Co Sligo's Atlantic coast to pick lobster pots and fish.

The other victims were Lady Doreen Brabourne, 83, the mother-in-law of Mountbatten's daughter, who died a day later; Nicholas Knatchbull, the earl's grandson, who was 14; and his friend Paul Maxwell, a 15-year-old local boy from Killynure, Enniskillen, who had worked on preparing the royal boat for fishing.

Countess Mountbatten set up the Nicholas Knatchbull Memorial Fund in 2006 in memory of her son.

The fund has supported family week programmes at Corrymeela for a number of years.

The Corrymeela Centre worked with victims throughout the Troubles and opened its doors 50 years ago.

It sees around 11,000 people a year at its residential centre in Ballycastle, Co Antrim.

Charles said: "Surely, too, in the roots of Corrymeela, we can discover lessons that can serve as a model to all who strive for peace and reconciliation."

Corrymeela was founded by Ray Davey, a man whose experience of suffering as a prisoner of war inspired him to wrestle with the question of building community amid conflict, the Prince said.

"I was lucky enough to meet him when I came here all those years ago. It was this vision that led him to establish a place where people of different backgrounds, different political and religious beliefs and different identities could gather to break bread, to work together, to learn and, most of all, to talk about the hurts which are too deep to bear in silence.

"As I said earlier this week in Sligo, healing is possible even when the heartache continues - and the fruits of Corrymeela over the past 50 years bear testament to this."

Charles added: "One can only imagine that Ray Davey's heart would have been gladdened to see the administrations in Dublin and London today working together so closely; to see the warm welcomes afforded to the Queen and to the President of Ireland as they visited each others' countries; to see just how far the peace process has come and to see the sense of common purpose shared by the people of this island as they pursue the path of reconciliation."

Charles said Northern Ireland was seen around the world as a shining example of what can be achieved when people commit themselves to ending conflict.

"But, of course, the story is not over; there is much more still to do."

He quoted poet Helen Waddell, from Northern Ireland, who was a fellow-member, with WB Yeats, of the Irish Literary Society, and 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."

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