Heir to the British throne Prince Charles, who fifty years ago this month became the Prince of Wales, kicked off St Patrick’s Day celebrations here early with dinner at the Embassy of Ireland accompanied by his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
Both are regular and enthusiastic visitors to Ireland with the Prince using the occasion to vow that he hoped to visit the 17 counties he has not yet been to so he can say he has been to all 32 before he “dropped dead” or “loses his marbles”.
In a speech, which featured a few words in the Irish language, Charles said he hoped to get round to visiting the other 17 Irish counties he had not yet visited before he ‘dropped dead’ or ‘loses his marbles’.
Among those present was the Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney – who earlier exchanged words in private with Northern Secretary Karen Bradley to express the country’s concern and displeasure at her prejudicial Bloody Sunday remarks in the Commons earlier that day – comedian and TV presenter Dara O Briain, and actors Fiona Shaw, Sir Kenneth Branagh and Adrian Dunbar.
Charles, who has visited Ireland annually for the past five years, said: “Above all we are friends, we are partners and we are the closest of near neighbours, bound together by everything that we have in common – and by just how far we have come together.
“If I may say so ladies and gentlemen, this is precisely why it has been of such importance to both my wife and myself that we too should visit Ireland so often over these past few years – to experience and celebrate as best we can the unparalleled bonds between our two countries and to highlight just what a fundamental difference they make to us all.
“And I must say I’m slightly amazed to find that we’ve managed to visit 15 counties already.
“I am quite determined before I drop dead and finally lose my marbles that I should get around to the remaining 17.
“And so, as our relationship evolves over the coming months and years, I have both the faith and the hope that the essential friendship between the people of Ireland and the people of the United Kingdom will not only endure but will renew itself for generations to come.’
He wished everyone a happy Saint Patrick’s Day in Irish with the words: “La Fheile Padraig sona daoibh.”
Mr Coveney acknowledged the Brexit tensions that have dominated London-Dublin-Belfast relations in recent months and said it was a privilege to be at the event to celebrate the British-Irish relationship approaching Saint Patrick’s Day “at a pretty serious time for everybody”.
“All of us here this evening understand that it’s not a time of entirely plain sailing in this relationship. There are some big issues at stake.”