From early Tuesday morning 140 members of the international, national, and local press gathered at the media centre at NUI Galway in anticipation of the first stopover of the royal visit.
NUIG kicked off proceedings by hosting a reception for invited guests which included politicians and dignitaries. Former Labour party leader Eamon Gilmore, local TDs Derek Nolan, Sean Kyne, and Eamon O Cuiv, were some of those in attendance along with Mayor of Galway Cllr Donal Lyons and Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council Mary Hoade.
Tánaiste Joan Burton was on hand to greet the royal pair along with Arts Minister Heather Humphries. In what was a landmark day for the college, president Jim Browne accompanied by his wife Maeve was first to welcome Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall to Galway.
There was much hype about the presence of Gerry Adams as it was the first time a member of the Sinn Féin leadership had met a member of the royal family in the Republic. The handshake which later took place between Mr Adams and Prince Charles was beamed around the world, with the move described as a symbol of the progress that has been made since the Prince’s first visit to Ireland in 1995.
During the visit, the duchess was presented with a bouquet of English roses before the royal couple were led into a marquee exhibiting the best of local Irish arts, crafts, and culture. The pair were also given a woollen blanket and, much to their own amusement, a willow-woven rattle for the newborn Princess Charlotte.
After being introduced to craft exhibitors by Niall Gibbons, the CEO of Tourism Ireland; Prince Charles and Camilla were immediately entertained by a troupe of Irish dancers from Damhsa Dance Company. The royal couple really enjoyed the performance with the prince enquiring if it was too late for him, at his age, to take up Irish dancing!
Speaking to the Galway Advertiser after the performance dancers John Fitzgerald from Kerry and Miriam Lee from Dublin said it was an honour to dance for such high profile guests and the couple seemed 'really really lovely and very friendly'.
The VIPs were also treated to a rendition of the song Peigin Leitir Mor, along with performances on the accordian and tin-whistle by students from Scoil Cholmcille Ros A Mhil and their namesake school in An Tulach. Scoil Cholmcille's principal Sile Nic Con Iomaire said it was a day that the young pupils would never forget. "We were so delighted to have been asked to give this performance, the kids were so excited, we never saw excitement like it. It was lovely the two schools came together so it was a joint effort. Prince Charles and the duchess spoke to the children after, they were so kind to them. Camilla said to one of the girls playing the accordion that she loved the squeeze box she was playing! It was a fantastic experience I don't know who was more excited, the teachers or the children."
During the reception Dr Jim Browne made a speech welcoming the couple to Galway and the Tánaiste spoke on behalf of the Government. Prince Charles took to the stage and made a great attempt at our native tongue by adressing the crowd as 'a dhaoine uaisle'. His Royal Highness spoke of his pleasure at being in Galway and how he always held fond memories of Ireland from his previous visits.
“Having first had the privilege of coming to Ireland in 1995, and then again in 2002, each time I have been so overwhelmed and so deeply touched by the extraordinary kindness, the welcome, and indeed the fun of being in Ireland. Apart from anything else, the chance of plenty of good jokes and laughter make the whole difference to life.”
How right he is about that.