A visit by the Prince of Wales to the Co Sligo village where an IRA bomb killed his great-uncle helped “put an end to the sadness” in the area, a local man has said.

Peter McHugh was part of the rescue effort in Mullaghmore after a bomb planted on a boat killed Lord Louis Mountbatten along with two members of his family and a Co Fermanagh teenager 40 year ago.

The 79-year-old cousin of the Queen was targeted by the IRA as his boat the Shadow V set off to gather lobster pots less than 600 metres from the harbour of the normally peaceful fishing village.

IRISH Prisoners/Mountbatten
Police search the area where Lord Mountbatten was killed when an IRA bomb destroyed his boat off the coast of Co Sligo (PA Archive)

Lord Mountbatten was murdered along with Lady Doreen Brabourne, the 83-year-old mother-in-law of the earl’s daughter, his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull and 15-year-old Paul Maxwell, from Killynur, Enniskillen.

Mr McHugh, then aged in his early 20s, was among the locals who took to the water to rescue any survivors.

“It’s hard to forget, I was just preparing to get ready for my day’s work in the hotel when we heard the explosion,” he told the PA news agency.

“I had never heard a bomb explode before other than on TV. It was quite a significant noise and I thought initially it might have been a gas cylinder exploding but it became apparent very quickly that it wasn’t.

“We did what we could at the scene, and came back to the harbour and waited for the boats who had lifted the casualties to come into the jetty and started to take them to shore. We made up some crude stretchers to bring the people from the boats and some of the casualties were tended to in the foyer of the hotel here.”

A cross has been erected on the Mullaghmore shoreline close to where four were killed in an IRA bomb attack on Lord Mountbatten’s boat. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr McHugh said no one had expected Lord Mountbatten would have been targeted, adding the village was left “totally shocked” by the tragedy – the only time Northern Ireland’s Troubles ever touched it.

“There is shock even to this day that something like that could have happened in a quiet village like Mullaghmore,” he said.

“It was a very different time, I think the general feeling was that it was an extreme tragedy, people did not want that type of activity visited upon the village and on the Mountbatten family, certainly not.

“It was totally taken for granted, they had been coming since the 1960s.

“In the aftermath of the bombing Mullaghmore suffered enormously from it, there was an air of depression around the area for a long long time.

“I think it has fully recovered now, and I think the royal visit would have been a huge factor in that.”

Royal visit to Ireland – Day 2
The Prince of Wales looked out to sea at Mullaghmore, Sligo, where his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA Wire)

Charles visited Mullaghmore for the first time in 2015 and met locals before pausing at the coastline where his great-uncle and mentor had died.

“The overwhelming feeling was that it was a very positive thing for Mullaghmore, in a way it sort of put an end to the controversy, grief and sadness to an extent,” said Mr McHugh.

“People were happy to see him coming here.”