Saturday 22 October 2016

'My heart feels healed' - locals' joy as Charles visit lays the ghosts of Mullaghmore to rest


Prince Charles shares a laugh with some local school children as he arrived with the Duchess, at The Model Arts center in Sligo
Prince Charles shares a laugh with some local school children as he arrived with the Duchess, at The Model Arts center in Sligo
Prince Charles greets locals in Mullaghmore, Sligo
Pince Charles and Camilla greet onlookers in Mullaghmore, Sligo
Prince Charles with Camilla in Mullaghmore

The scars of the Mullaghmore bombing will heal from Prince Charles' visit to the area, residents have said.

The poignant trip to the small fishing village brought back deep emotions and some final closure for those who had lived through the horror.

Many were particularly moved by the Prince's speech earlier in the day in which he spoke of how he felt the "foundations of all that we held dear in life had been torn apart irreparably" by the tragedy.

Although it was 35 years ago, for many locals the visit of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall brought them back to that August day in 1979.

Peter Gallagher, who worked for Lord Mountbatten for over 20 years broke down as he described meeting the Prince.

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"He was glad we were all there, he was glad to meet the staff that worked with Lord Mountbatten. But it was very emotional," he said.

Desmond Moran, the coroner who carried out the inquests into the four deaths, revealed how he thought about the victims every day for three and a half decades.

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He described the Prince's private meeting with gardai, medical staff and locals as healing.

"He made a big point of trying to be personal with everybody," he said. "He kept his composure but it was a very emotional time."

He said the meeting had brought some sense of closure.

"I have thought for the last 36 years about these things. It always comes back. It sort of rounded off that terrible circle. My heart feels healed. I think Ireland should be very proud we have recovered so well as a nation," he added.

Hundreds lined the roadside in Mullaghmore yesterday to mark the visit of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Prior to the royal couple's arrival into the small fishing village, they made a private visit to Classiebawn Castle, the former residence of Lord Mountbatten.

Their cavalcade then drove the coastal route into Mullaghmore, pausing momentarily at the scene of the blast, which is marked with a small cross.

A large garda presence was visible throughout the town with the LE Orla naval ship in the bay and checkpoints at a number of places upon arrival. However, despite the significant gardai presence, a relaxed atmosphere was evident.

As they arrived, the couple were greeted by sister Kathleen Rooney from the Star of the Sea centre and Peter McHugh, the local hotelier who carried Lord Mountbatten's body ashore.

Following a visit to the Peace and Reconciliation Garden, the couple went on a walkabout along Main Street.

Lord Mountbatten's grandson Timothy Knatchbull, who survived the bomb blast, was also in attendance with his wife, Isabella. The couple followed behind Prince Charles and the Duchess, shaking hands with locals and exchanging stories.

Many of those who came to greet the royal couple thanked the Prince personally for his emotive speech at the Model Arts Centre earlier that day.

During his only address of the day, Charles spoke movingly about the loss of his beloved great uncle describing him as "the grandfather I never had".

He revealed how the assassination of his 'much-loved' Lord Mountbatten along with four others, including his grandson Nicholas Knatchbull, Dorothy Brabourne and Paul Maxwell, had rocked his family.

"At the time I could not imagine how we would come to terms with the anguish of such a deep loss since, for me, Lord Mountbatten represented the grandfather I never had.

"So it seemed as if the foundations of all that we held dear in life had been torn apart irreparably," he said.

However, he said the experience had helped him understand in a "profound way the agonies borne by so many others in these islands, of whatever faith, denomination or political persuasion."


He said that despite the tragedy, Lord Mountbatten and his family had memories of "great happiness" in Classiebawn Castle and Mullaghmore going back to 1976.

Following the bombing, the "extraordinary outpouring" of compassion shown by the local community to Lord Mountbatten's family and the Maxwell family had "done much to aid the healing process".

Charles said the success of recent visits by the Queen and President Higgins showed "the maturity of our relations which are now better than ever".

However, he stressed the current era of friendship is not founded on "pretending that the past did not happen".

"We all have regrets," he added.

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