Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie Rhys Jones, were welcomed by President McAleese on their first official visit to Ireland today. They were here for a conference at Dublin Castle for young people who have been the recipients of international awards. The conference is a joint North/South venture.

Seventy-seven young people from 25 countries who have won their nation's equivalent of the Gaisce award attended today's conference, as a start of a three-week leadership training course based both in the Republic and in the North. Prince Edward is the Chairman of the International Awards Association. The royal couple, who are in Dublin on their first official overseas visit, opened today's conference along with President McAleese today.

Afterwards the Prince was surprised by the presentation of a portrait of his wife by Mayo artist, Thomas Collins, a former Gaisce Director. He said it would remind her that she had Mayo roots. This was the first foreign visit by the Royal couple, but it will not be long before the Prince, at least, is back in Ireland. He has promised to return in three weeks time when the training course is over, to talk to the young people about their experiences, but that will probably be in Belfast.