Britain's Prince Charles has said he and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, are looking forward to visiting Ireland again "once happier times return". 

The message came on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the royal couple's visit to Sligo in 2015. They have returned to these shores every year since then.

The British Embassy in Dublin tweeted a statement from Prince Charles in which he confirmed that "it is a matter of particular sadness that, due to the current public health crisis, we are unable to visit Ireland and Northern Ireland this year".

He added: "We very much look forward to visiting again once happier times return."

In 2015, as part of a four day visit to Ireland, Prince Charles and his wife visited Mullaghmore, in Co Sligo - where the prince's great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was murdered by the IRA in 1979.

During the visit, he said he understood the "agonies" of so many others who lost loved ones in the 30-year conflict on the island of Ireland.

In today's statement, Prince Charles said: "It has meant so much to us that we have been able to play our small part in the vital process of reconciliation on the island of Ireland and towards reaffirming the essential bond between the people of Ireland and the people of the United Kingdom."

The heir to Britain's Queen Elizabeth spent seven days self-isolating in Scotland after testing positive for Covid-19 in March. A Palace official later confirmed that the prince was in good health.

It is not known when another royal visit can be arranged here, due to the ongoing global pandemic.

So for now, Prince Charles and Camilla can only cherish their memories of Ireland. Following Sligo in 2015, they visited Donegal in 2016, Kilkenny, Kildare and Dublin in 2017, Cork and Kerry in 2018 and Wicklow last year.

"My wife and I cherish such special memories of our visit to Sligo five years ago, and of each of the visits we have made to Ireland in every year since," he said.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney retweeted Prince Charles' message and replied: "Thank you ... you are always welcome in Ireland, we look forward to your next visit."

Prince Charles signed off the message with an Irish saying of hope and its English translation.

"Go gcastar ar a chéile arís muid.

Go dté sibh slán.

Until we all meet together again.

May you all remain safe and well."