Prince Charles Pays Emotional Tribute To Great-Uncle Slain By IRA

05/20/2015 02:14 pm ET | Updated May 20, 2015
OZAN KOSE via Getty Images

DUBLIN (AP) — Prince Charles has paid an emotional tribute to Lord Louis Mountbatten, slain 36 years ago by the Irish Republican Army, as the British royal tours Ireland on a mission of peace and reconciliation.

Charles received a standing ovation at the end of his speech Wednesday in the western Irish town of Sligo, where he declared that "healing is possible even when the heartache continues."

He noted the centuries of conflict between Britain and Ireland — and the decades of turmoil over the British territory of Northern Ireland that claimed 3,700 lives — as well as the price his own family paid in an IRA attack in 1979.

The heir to the British throne took a breath before recalling how his great-uncle Mountbatten, 79, was killed when a remote-controlled bomb destroyed his yacht as it left the fishing village of Mullaghmore, 26 kilometers (16 miles) up the road from Sligo, where the World War II hero had lived for three decades in a castle estate.

Also killed in the blast was Mountbatten's 14-year-old grandson, the boy's 15-year-old friend, and the grandson's 83-year-old grandmother.

"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 the grandfather I never had," Charles told the audience at Sligo's arts center.

"It seemed as if the foundations of all that we held dear in life had been torn apart irreparably," he said. "Through this dreadful experience, though, I now understand in a profound way the agonies borne by so many others in these islands of whatever faith, denomination or political tradition."

Charles was to visit Mullaghmore later Wednesday. He planned to meet the parents of the 15-year-old Northern Ireland boy who had been invited to go on Mountbatten's boat, well as locals and emergency personnel who pulled the dead and wounded from the harbor that day.

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