Prince of Wales hails ‘tireless work’ for reconciliation in Belfast

Royal visit to Northern Ireland
Royal visit to Northern Ireland (PA Wire)
19:33pm, Tue 18 May 2021
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The Prince of Wales hailed “tireless work” for reconciliation in Belfast during a visit to Northern Ireland.

Charles also followed in his late father’s footsteps by visiting the Harland and Wolff shipyard and became the first member of the royal family in recent history to visit South Armagh.

He finished off the day meeting First Minister Arlene Foster at Hillsborough Castle.

She did not make a statement following the engagement, but later tweeted: “Delighted to welcome HRH The Prince of Wales to Hillsborough. HRH has always been a tremendous supporter of building a shared and united community in Northern Ireland.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said it had not been possible for her to attend the meeting, but in a statement to PA commended the “very positive contribution” of the royals to the “development of peace and reconciliation”.

In the second engagement on Tuesday, Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall met with a number of youth workers at the headquarters of the Education Authority in Belfast city centre.

They heard reflections from young people living in deprived areas on how youth workers had impacted their lives.

In a speech, Charles hailed the “tireless work” being done to bring about reconciliation.

“I cannot tell you how really inspiring it has been to hear of the tireless work being carried out by youth workers on all sides of the community, and I just wanted to take this opportunity, if I may, to pay special tribute to your dedication and commitment to the cause of peaceful co-existence,” he said.

“We must never underestimate the risk, and of course the cost, of holding to peaceful ways, and how much determination and courage is necessary.

“All of you whom I have met here today and many more of your colleagues in your communities have shown those qualities in the most challenging circumstances.

“We owe you a deep debt of gratitude and above all of admiration.”

Royal visit to Northern Ireland (PA Wire)

Among the work discussed at the engagement were schemes to stop bonfire builders from engaging in anti-social behaviour.

He added: “Whenever I visit I never cease to be profoundly moved by the work that is being done to heal the pain of the past, to bring understanding and reconciliation in the present and to build hope for the future.

“All who love this very special part of the world can only wish you renewed strength of spirit and resolve as you take forward this work of such vital importance to these islands.”

Charles went on to carry out a solo visit to the Harland and Wolff shipyard in the east of the city.

He commented on the height of the towering yellow cranes which dominate the city skyline as he met workers, many of whom represent the third or fourth generations of their family to work there.

The royal visitor unveiled a plaque to mark the 160th anniversary of the company, which fell into administration in 2019 before being bought by InfraStrata.

Royal visit to Northern Ireland (PA Wire)

He told the workers it had been a great pleasure to meet some of them and thanked them for their hard work.

The prince was presented with a picture of his late father, the Duke of Edinburgh, on a visit to the shipyard in 1977.

Charles went on to Slieve Gullion Forest Park where he was entertained with traditional Irish music and told about red squirrel and pinemarten conservation efforts.

Charles became the first member of the royal family in recent history to visit a venue in south Armagh due to security issues during Northern Ireland’s troubled past. The area had been regarded as a republican stronghold where Army structures were heavily fortified against attack by the IRA.

Royal visit to Northern Ireland (PA Wire)

Earlier in their first engagement of the day, the royal couple were told about the rich and varied history of Belfast at the beginning of a two-day visit to Northern Ireland.

They visited Belfast City Hall where they were welcomed by Lord Mayor Frank McCoubrey.

Charles and Camilla sign the visitors' book at Belfast City Hall (PA Wire)

Upon arrival, the royal couple viewed a mural by Belfast artist John Like which was painted for the Festival of Britain in 1950 before viewing a copy of a John Conor painting which showed the State Opening of Stormont in 1921.

Charles then met and discussed the centenary of Northern Ireland with local historians.

The duchess, meanwhile, heard about Belfast’s ambition to become a Unesco City of Music and was introduced to the women’s steering group behind the bid.

Camilla, wearing an emerald green Rifle’s coat dress and matching face mask, designed by Fiona Claire, discussed issues around domestic violence with the women.

Before leaving, they met with council staff who had worked in the community in Northern Ireland throughout the pandemic.

The Duchess of Cornwall brought the Co Down village of Hillsborough to a standstill following a visit to an art studio.

The duchess tried her hand at the traditional craft of silversmithing during the visit to the workshop of Cara Murphy.

Mrs Murphy is a renowned silversmith who created the Grand National trophy.

One of her pieces of work is also in Downing Street.

The duchess viewed a demonstration before taking a hammer and trying the technique herself, causing Mrs Murphy to comment that it could be a new career.

Then Camilla viewed several pieces of art created by the Co Down artist before meeting her family.

On leaving the studio, a large crowd had gathered, causing police to temporarily close the road.

The Duchess took time to talk to some local schoolchildren before leaving.

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