Dublin welcomes Duke and Duchess of Sussex on first overseas trip

Official visit by the couple is intended to stress importance of UK-Irish relationship

A red-carpet welcome has been laid on for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who have flown to Dublin after attending celebrations in London to mark the 100th anniversary of the RAF.

The whistlestop 24-hour visit is their first official overseas trip as a married couple, with the Foreign Office hoping it will underscore the importance of maintaining good relations throughout and after the Brexit process.

Prince Harry and Meghan, who chose a forest-green Givenchy outfit in a nod to her hosts, were greeted at Government Buildings by the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, on Tuesday, who showed them a plaque marking the foundation stone laid by Edward VII in 1904.

At a garden party at the British ambassador’s residence, the duke toasted the UK and Ireland’s “unique” relationship in a speech acknowledging a shared history that was “long and complex”.

“There have of course been challenging, and at times tragic, periods of that relationship,” he said. The duke and duchess would reflect on “some of those difficult passages in our history” on Wednesday when they visit Croke Park, scene of one of the incidents of Bloody Sunday on 21 November 1920, when 14 spectators at a Gaelic football match were shot by British soldiers. They will also visit the Famine Memorial, commemorating the 1 million who died in the mid 19th century famine.

Their visit would also “celebrate just how much unites us,” he added. “This is a very special relationship between two proud, sovereign countries. We share common values; culture, business links, family ties, and possibly a similar sense of humour. Our relationship is of course informed by our history, but it is also one which is now dynamic and forward looking.”

He quoted a traditional Irish saying, used by President Michael D Higgins during his 2014 UK visit: “‘Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’ – “we live in each other’s shadows” – we shield each other, and rely on each other for shelter.”

Harry concluded: “That sentiment is as apt now as it was then, as we draw strength from one another as neighbours, partners, and above all friends.”

Guests included politicians and sporting stars as well those from the arts. Among those due to attend were designer Orla Kiely, Outlander actor Caitriona Balfe and Derry Girls writer Lisa McGee.

Before the visit Varadkar had been swift to highlight the importance of their visit, saying: “I think with the United Kingdom leaving Europe, we are really going to need to focus a lot more on bilateral relationships, and visits of the president to the UK or members of the royal family to Ireland help to cement that very close relationship between Britain and Ireland”.

The visit, at the request of the British government, is not the first for the duchess to the “fair city”, although she faces a contrasting itinerary to the one she enjoyed in the city five years ago in her pre-royal days.

Then, as an actor picking up an entertainment award in 2013 for her part in US legal drama Suits, she sampled the city’s nightlife, participating in a Guinness pint-pulling competition. In keeping with many US celebrities, she also found distant Irish roots to embrace. “My dad’s side of the family is Irish,” she then revealed to Irish media explaining her excitement at seeing the city.

This time she was meeting Higgins, as well as the taoiseach, and rather than Dicey’s and Krystle’s nightclubs, a traditional summer garden party hosted by the British ambassador awaited her.

The visit ensures Ireland enjoys an embarrassment of royal visits, with the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall having toured Kerry and Cork only last month.

In 2011, the Queen became the first British monarch to visit Ireland since her grandfather George V’s visit in 1911.


Caroline Davies in Dublin

The GuardianTramp

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