Belfast Telegraph

Friendship between Ireland and UK will endure, Charles declares on visit to Cork

By Nicola Anderson

It was the first time a member of the Royal family had boarded an Irish naval vessel.

But more importantly, perhaps, it was also the first time any of them had ever entered an Irish bothan.

The humble mud cabins, in which at least 40% of the population had endured misery and wretched hardship - and in which far too many had perished - had certainly not received any royal visitor in famine times.

And so Prince Charles's visit to the little one-roomed house built out of wattle and sods, with its dramatically flourishing cover of vegetation, felt unexpectedly moving.

It was far more like he was paying his respects at a mass famine grave than a mere visit to a temporary structure erected in the grounds of University College Cork.

The expression on his face as he bowed to exit its low door appeared to be a combination of shock, bewilderment but also, perhaps, of sorrow.

"And this is the Rolls Royce of bothans," pointed out Mike Murphy, the cartographer of the Irish famine at UCC. "You can't recreate the misery," he said.

It had been his idea to construct the bothan because "people weren't getting" how truly appalling the conditions were, he explained.

There was great poignancy in Mr Murphy's remarks that the hut will not be permitted to stand during the winter because it will be "far too dangerous".

There were many moments during the visit of Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, to Cork which felt special but this was a footnote to the tragic history of An Gorta Mor (The Great Famine).

As their car pulled up outside the English Market, beginning their itinerary in Cork, they were out the door and straight over to the children of St Patrick's girls' National School, who, en masse, had been excitedly fixing their yellow hair ribbons in the reflection of a shoe shop window before taking their place at the barricades.

Camilla wore a cornflower blue coat with the Claddagh brooch she'd been presented with in Galway and beige suede shoes, while Charles was decked out in a blue pinstriped suit with a white carnation in his buttonhole.

Jaunty brass band beats from the children of the Cork Barrack Street Band set the dial to 'holiday mood'.

The couple were met by Tanaiste Simon Coveney, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and Lord Mayor of Cork Tony Fitzgerald.

"It's a big moment for Cork," said the Tanaiste beforehand, saying they were going to see the "best of Cork".

The couple took in a highly enjoyable jaunt around the stalls of the English market, with Charles particularly taken with the local mozzarella .

At City Hall, Charles delivered his only speech of the day - embellished with a few careful words in Irish. There was a veiled reference to Brexit, saying he had "nothing but the greatest confidence that the friendship, collaboration and mutual understanding that Ireland and the United Kingdom have enjoyed over recent years will endure, as we work together to find solutions to shared challenges and as our relationship evolves in the months and years ahead".

During the visit, Charles met with the Sinn Fein leadership.

Party president Mary Lou McDonald and her deputy Michelle O'Neill had a private meeting with the prince in Cork, which lasted over 30 minutes.

Speaking following the meeting, Ms McDonald TD said she was glad to avail of the opportunity to extend the hand of friendship of those in Ireland who identify as British.

"Today's meeting was an opportunity to extend the hand of friendship, not just to Prince Charles or to the British Royal family - whose efforts to promote reconciliation I want to acknowledge - but to those on our island who identify as British, and who are British," she said.

Belfast Telegraph

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