REMARKS BY PRESIDENT McALEESE AT THE STATE DINNER OF THE STATE VISIT OF HSH PRINCE ALBERT II
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT McALEESE AT THE STATE DINNER ON THE OCCASION OF THE STATE VISIT OF HSH PRINCE ALBERT II OF MONACO
Your Serene Highness, Prince Albert II, and Ms. Wittstock
A Chairde gael, Chers amis, Dear friends
It is with great pleasure that I wish you céad míle fáilte, a hundred thousand welcomes, to Ireland. More accurately I should welcome back both your Highness and your fiancée for of course you both have strong roots in this country and you are both part of the vast and diverse global Irish family linked to Ireland by an unshakeable affinity born of kinship.
Your Serene Highness, the very first of many visits to Ireland included a trip to this house when, as a three year old, along with your sister Princess Caroline you joined your late parents, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace for part of their historic official visit to Ireland. This year marks the 50th anniversary of that visit which was itself such a warm and unique expression of Irish-Monégasque friendship.
The timing of your visit is doubly felicitous since it also precedes your marriage to Ms Wittstock in the very near future. Martin and I are very pleased to have been invited to share in this joyous occasion and look forward with great anticipation to attending the ceremonies in July.
In a letter to President de Valera after the visit in 1961, Princess Grace wrote: “I feel very inadequate in trying to express the love and emotion I feel for the Irish people. The remembrance of the thrilling welcome we received and of your generous welcome I shall cherish always.” Television footage shows the throngs of ecstatic well-wishers who lined the streets along the route taken by your parents’ car from the airport. Dublin was decked in the red and white of the Principality, quite an accolade when you think that they are also the colours of the rival city that believes itself to be the real capital of Ireland - Cork.
That was in fact the first official visit by any Head of State to Ireland since the foundation of our State, hence its huge and enduring significance. I do not imagine you remember much of that visit but the Ireland you visited then was poor, still struggling to open up economic opportunity for its people at home and to find its feet abroad in the community of nations. It was a nation whose spirit was often sustained by the success stories of its emigrant children, none more remarkable than the story of the young Grace Kelly whose family hailed from Mayo or the young Jack Kennedy, President of the United States who was to visit us two years later in 1963.
These two children of Irish emigrants, returned to a rapturous reception in the land of their ancestors, because through their lives, Ireland began to see the new possibilities that would open up to us at home with hard work, tenacity and especially education.
We also began to look anew at our emigrant family and instead of seeing only the loss, the absences and the sadness we saw a new international resource in the solidarity and creative dynamism of the global Irish family. That visit half a century ago was more than a glamorous interlude, it was a seminal moment for Ireland when we looked to a new horizon of hope-filled potential.
Ireland and Monaco are small, maritime countries, with connections to each other that have never been stronger and similarities that are worth building on. We have both sought to build on our intellectual strengths by developing opportunities in high-tech, and high-value sectors and I am sure the economic delegation from Monaco whom I warmly welcome will find it very easy to develop and strengthening our economic relations.
We both have a vested interest in protecting the environment, especially the marine environment and in sustainable development, themes evident throughout the programme of this visit. Your Serene Highness will visit the Marine Institute in Galway and I know from my own visit there some time ago that you will not only be very impressed by the work undertaken there but also by its magnificent coastal location. It is every bit as beautiful as the spot off the coasts of Cork and Kerry where your great-grandfather had to moor for two months in 1882 when a storm blew him off course while en route to Iceland to carry out scientific research! Your own foundation, the Prince Albert II Foundation, is continuing his extraordinary research on the marine environment and I hope that through this visit new areas of cooperation between Ireland and Monaco in this important area will be identified and pursued.
Irish poet Gréagóir Ó Dúill was one of the many recipients of a bursary from the Ireland Fund of Monaco, and spent a fruitful month as writer in residence in that enclave of Irish culture on the sunny Mediterranean - the Princess Grace Irish Library, in autumn 2009. Among the poems he wrote of that time is one aptly entitled ‘Environmental Study’, with the following lines depicting Monaco’s particular beauty:
In a city
of riotous colour, of bright buildings on bright rock,
of gardens where bougainvillea seems sober
what seizes attention is the white and black, the gray.
I hope you will find the colours and landscape of Ireland equally beautiful for all that they are very different. I hope too that you will find here a welcome like no other and gratitude for all that Monaco has done especially through contribution to Irish culture made by the many symposia, publications and conferences of the Princess Grace Irish Library. Most of all I hope you will feel at home here, for you are surely among your own, a fact that makes both Ireland and Monaco very proud.
I now invite you, distinguished guests, to stand and join me in a toast:
- To the health and happiness of His Serene Highness, Prince Albert II
- To a joyful wedding day for His Serene Highness and Ms. Wittstock
- To peace and prosperity for Monaco
- And to continued friendship and kinship between the peoples of Ireland and Monaco.
Gurb fada buan sibh agus go raibh maith agaibh.