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Prince Charles’ successful visit to Ireland paved way for the Queen’s historic tour


Prince Charles visited Ireland in 1995. Credit: Victoria Jones

Prince Charles visited Ireland in 1995. Credit: Victoria Jones

Prince Charles visited Ireland in 1995. Credit: Victoria Jones

A highly successful trip to the Republic by Prince Charles in 1995 increased hopes of a visit from the Queen within both the Irish and British Governments.

State files revealed the trip by the Prince of Wales had been considered an overwhelming success.

Although it would be another 16 years before the Queen made her historic State visit to Ireland, an Irish businessman, Ned Ryan, raised the issue with the Monarch shortly after Charles returned from a two-day trip to Dublin — the first visit by a member of the royal family since the Republic gained independence from Britain.

Charles had visited Ireland within a year of the ceasefire announced in 1994 by the IRA who had murdered his great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, in a bomb explosion at Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, in 1979.

A confidential memo sent by Ireland’s Ambassador Joseph Small to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin in June 1995 revealed Mr Ryan, an antiques dealer who was a close friend of the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, and a regular visitor to Buckingham Palace, said to the Queen that he presumed she would be next to visit Ireland.

The Queen replied that while she was delighted with the success of her son’s trip to the Republic, she felt that she would not be able to visit “just yet”.

However, she added that her mother, the late Queen Mother, was now “dying to go”.

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A separate memo also hints at warming Anglo-Irish relations in the late 1990s — revealing the Irish Ambassador to Britain was astounded when a Buckingham Palace footman warmly wished him a goodnight in Irish.

Ambassador Ted Barrington submitted a report on his attendance at a general diplomatic corps reception hosted by members of the Royal family at Buckingham Palace in November 1997.

It proved to be a lavish affair with guests lined up for a personal introduction with the Royal family “under paintings in the Queen’s collection, chandeliers and gilded mirrors of the palace”.

He detected several distinct gestures towards Ireland with the military band playing several Irish tunes including The Rose of Tralee.

“The Queen was in good form — was warm and friendly towards Ireland,” Ambassador Barrington noted. But the remarkable footnote occurred as the Irish party left Buckingham Palace that evening.

“One of the elderly footmen, dressed in a red cloak and white hat, bade us good night saying: ‘Oíche mhaith, slán agus beannacht’.”

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