Updated: 20/03/17 : 04:57:20
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Hopes high for major royal visit to north Sligo

Special Report

HOPES ARE high of a major royal visit to north Sligo inside the next eighteen months.

Two months ago, a formal invitation to visit Ireland was extended to the Spanish Prime Minister for talks on 'Brexit' and Britain leaving the European Union.

Little reported was that Taoiseach Enda Kenny also invited the King of Spain, Felipe the 6th and his wife Queen Letizia, to accompany the PM on such a visit.

This has privately raised hopes that a likely Irish visit by the Spanish royalty would include North Sligo in its main itinerary.

No public response has yet been made, here or in Spain, in response to the Taoiseach's invitation.

In modern European terms, the royal couple are very young -- the King will not hit the milestone 50th birthday until January next year.

Felipe is the only second monarch in modern Spain, barely three years in office when his father Juan Carlos abdicated in his fourth decade on the throne.

The Spanish monarchy disappeared off the agenda during the last century, as the country was run by a dictator, General Franco.

Sources have confirmed to Sligo Today the prospects for a visit will remain on the agenda for ongoing talks with the Spanish Embassy.

These talks also aim to strengthen ties between Sligo and Spain on a cultural and political level.

Especially noted has been the respectful recent remembrances of lives lost locally in the Spanish Armada disaster.

Locals in north Sligo now hold an international festival to reflect on the 1588 tragedy.

Ran Aground

Then three galleons ran aground at Streedagh, near Grange, with the loss of 1,100 lives -- many washed up on local beaches.

Two years ago, locals etched a cross in the sand at Streedagh in memory of each member of the lost Armada.

Next year, September 2018, will mark the 430th anniversary of events marked in Irish, Spanish and British history.

Both the Irish and Spanish recall the events as a tragedy, the British not so.

Private Office

State visits by any foreign dignitaries -- the Pope, Donald Trump, the Spanish PM or King and Queen of Spain etc -- would be handled by the Taoiseach's Private Office.

The Office ''liaises with the Protocol Division in respect of inward visits by other Heads of State or Government and foreign dignitaries,'' says the Taoiseach's website.

Direct Link

There is a direct link between the Sligo tragedy and the Spanish monarchy.

One of the clearest accounts by a survivor was written to King Philip the 2nd of Spain.

Major storms off the Sligo coast earlier this decade have helped uncover timbers, cannons and cannonball from the centuries-old local wrecks.

The principal new artefacts are currently held by the National Museum.

But hopes are high these will be returned for permanent display and visitors amenity at Streedagh or Grange.

However, concerns were flagged in the Dáil some time ago that safety and security of the artefacts would be a prime issue before their return.

Arts and Culture Minister Heather Humphreys was responding to queries by local TD Tony McLoughlin.

MInister Humphries would become a key player in funding terms if a visit to Sligo by the Spanish royal couple is announced.