The town of Newport came to a standstill on Wednesday evening when the locals came out in force to welcome Prince Albert of Monaco and his wife to be Charlene Wittstock to Mayo.
On the way from Galway to Newport, the royal party stopped off at the ancestral home of his mother, the late Princesses Grace, at Dirimurla just outside the town.
It was not the first time the town had hosted royalty from the principality, with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the first time the late Princess Grace made a visit to the home that her grandfather Peter Kelly emigrated from to the United States in 1887. The royal party zoomed into Newport shortly after 5.30pm, where a large crowd had gathered to greet them as they arrived at Newport House. Inside were relatives of the prince on the Kelly side of his family along with local dignitaries, including Minister of State for Sport and Tourism, Dep Michael Ring, the Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Michael Burke, and county manager Peter Hynes. Speaking after his meeting with the royal party Mr Hynes was asked if there were any discussions about plans for the restoration of the ancestral home of the late Princess Grace. “There was a brief discussion and it was decided to consolidate what we have to make it safe and preserve what we have then take it from there,” Mr Hynes said. “You never know where a visit like this might lead to. I hope it shows that we are the most friendly of counties reaching out to our Diaspora.”
Mayo County Council is setting up the Mayo Diaspora Project and is in the process of setting up a website to bring the massive Mayo Diaspora from all over the world together, it is hoped that a visit like this week’s, by such a high ranking member of the Mayo Diaspora, could have positive benefits for the county.
After the royal party had finished their business in Newport House, it had been hoped that the prince would walk across the bridge in the town to The Grainne Uaile pub on Medlicott Street. However the heavy showers descended on the Clew Bay town while the party made their first stop and it was by car that they travelled the short trip across the Black Oak River, where they mingled with a small number of local residents inside the pub. There was a large crowd out in force to greet them once again, and there was a presentation from local Special Olympic athletes and from the proprietors of the public house before they made their entrance to rapturous applause from those gathered inside. The party were treated to traditional Irish music by a number of local musicians in the pub. The locals got to meet and get pictures taken with the couple who waited for over an hour inside the pub, and many more of the town’s people waited outside in the pouring rain to say a farewell to Prince Albert and his fiancée before they departed just before 8pm for Knock Airport where they flew back to the principality.