Belfast Telegraph

Prince Charles visit: Mountbatten bomb bereaved attend church service

The Prince of Wales joined the parents of the boat boy killed alongside Lord Mountbatten at a poignant service of reconciliation near Mullaghmore.

Paul Maxwell died in the IRA bomb that claimed the life of Charles's great uncle in August 1979. Today his parents John and Mary sat close to the prince and Duchess of Cornwall during the reflective event at Drumcliffe, Co Sligo.

It was held at St Columba's Church before the Royal couple made their short trip northward to the scene of the atrocity at the picturesque Mullaghmore harbour.

As well as Lord Mountbatten and the 15-year-old schoolboy from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, the IRA bomb killed Lady Doreen Brabourne, 83, the mother-in-law of Mountbatten's daughter, and Nicholas Knatchbull, the earl's 14-year-old grandson.

Mr Maxwell said he had been nervous about attending the service but ultimately found it uplifting.

"I thought it was brilliant," he said afterwards

"It was very moving and very appropriate."

During the 40 minute mix of prayer, music and religious readings, the prince sat beside former Irish president Mary McAleese. Mrs McAleese, who was crucial in facilitating the Queen's historic visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011, gave one of the readings.

Afterwards, she said the prince's latest visit to Ireland had helped further develop the increasingly positive relationship enjoyed between her nation and the UK.

"Not just by being here but by the words he has spoken and the relationships he had managed to create," she added.

The former president described the prince's trip to Mullaghmore as a "pilgrimage of the heart".

"We all know what the past was like, it was not a pretty landscape at all, and particularly that day at Mullaghmore was horrendous. I think today something much more gracious and beautiful is let loose into the Irish air."

During the service, there were prayers for those who died at Mullaghmore and all the other victims of the Troubles.

Thanks was also offered for the advent of peace to the island.

One of the singers in a choir made up of schools from across Sligo had also been touched by the Troubles.

Bethany McLoughlin, whose grandfather Gerard McKinney was killed by British soldiers on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972, met the prince during his visit.

Members of Sligo gospel choir gave an up-tempo performance for the royal couple as they emerged from the church.

St Columba's sits at the foot of the landmark Benbulben mountain. The grave of acclaimed poet WB Yeats sits only yards from the church door, in clear view of the mountain that provided inspiration for some of his works.

The prince and duchess paused for a moment to view the understated headstone of one of Ireland's literary greats.

They then crossed to the opposite side of the church yard, where Charles helped plant a tree to commemorate his visit. He was also presented with a painting of Co Sligo before departing on to Mullaghmore.

Further reading

Prince Charles: I feel pain of victims who suffered during Northern Ireland Troubles 

'Lord Mountbatten was the grandfather I never had'

Gerry Adams in 'meeting of minds' with Prince Charles

Prince Charles' 'regret' over deaths during Northern Ireland Troubles

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