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Visit brings healing for prince and fishing community

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, (centre) stands with Timothy Knatchbull and his wife Isabella, as they look out over the harbour in Mullaghmore, Sligo, where Lord Mountbatten, was killed alongside his young grandson Nicholas Knatchbull, on day two of a four day visit to Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 20, 2015. See PA story ROYAL Ireland. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire.

A single hour spent by Prince Charles in the Co Sligo seaside village where he lost two relatives 36 years ago has helped set the seeds for mutual healing.

Mullaghmore was dramatically transformed from a quiet west of Ireland fishing community into a crime scene after a 50lb IRA bomb exploded on board the Shadow V boat shortly before midday on August 27 1979.

Three bodies were pulled from the waters, including the grandson of Queen Victoria and retired British naval officer Lord Louis Mountbatten (79), his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull and Paul Maxwell, a 15-year-old boatboy from Enniskillen. The Dowager Lady Brabourne later succumbed to her injuries.

There were three badly injured survivors – Nicholas's parents and his twin brother Timothy.

Just 12 miles from the border, Mullaghmore had managed to remain detached from the Troubles, until world attention focussed on it as the place where the IRA had targeted the prominent and popular British royal.

The Northern Ireland conflict meant Prince Charles and his family had never visited the spot where his granduncle and mentor had died while heading out with his family to check on lobster pots.

Speaking at the Model Arts Centre in Sligo yesterday, he referred to the devastating grief he felt by the loss.

"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 a grandfather that I never had. So it seemed as if the foundations of all we hold dear in life had been torn apart irreparably through this dreadful experience."

In 1979, Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams suggested that with Mountbatten's "war record I don't think he could have objected to dying in what was clearly a war situation."

But fences can be built and images of the prince and the political leader sharing a handshake in Galway were beamed around the world this week.

For Mullaghmore too it was a time for healing. During yesterday's visit, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall spoke to many of the emergency workers and medical staff who had been involved in the aftermath of the bomb attack.

They included retired Garda Sergeant Seamus Lohan, who arrested IRA man Thomas McMahon and Francis McGirl at a checkpoint near Granard after stopping their car.

Acting on instinct, the garda had swung into action after noticing that McMahon's hands were shaking. The pair were in custody when two hours later, an unknown IRA member used a radio device to detonate the bomb. McMahon would be jailed for his role in planting the bomb and freed under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Retired coroner, Dr Desmond Moran, was deeply moved by his conversation with the prince, telling reporters he had given him "documents of a historical nature for his files."

He had also answered the prince's questions about the bomb but refused to be drawn on what information was exchanged.

However, it was Rev Noel Regan, originally from Mullaghmore and now based in Belleek, Co Fermanagh, who best summed up the lasting impact the day would have on all those involved.

He described the meetings as "incredibly moving" and "emarkable."

The Church of Ireland minister, who had worked as a chauffeur and

archivist for Mountbatten, added. "here was such humanity. Here was a man coming to visit this place. It was important to him and we were incredibly privileged to share that with him."

He described significance of the day's events as "mmeasurable."

"It is a day of healing, of reconciliation…..to see the emotion, the sense of healing, it's just unbelievable actually,"Rev Regan added.

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