Prince Charles begins tour of Belfast

Prince Charles begins tour of Belfast

THE Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are in Belfast as they begin a two-day visit to the North of Ireland.

The Royal couple visited a Catholic Church in the north of the city that has been at the centre of bitter disputes in relation to loyalist band parades.

In 2012, a loyalist band marched outside St Patrick’s Church, playing a song perceived to be anti-Catholic.

First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were both present to welcome the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

A small group of protesters stood outside the church, including relatives of those killed in Ballymurphy in 1971.

Ten people were killed in the massacre, many of whom were shot by soldiers of the Parachute Regiment, of which the Prince is colonel-in-chief.

Speaking of the Royal visit, Mr Robinson said: "I think the palace have played an extraordinary role in terms of reconciliation relating to both within Northern Ireland, and between Northern Ireland and the Irish republic, between those of us on the island as a whole and those in Great Britain.”

The Prince will also visit a community centre in east Belfast today (Thursday), while the Duchess of Cornwall will attend a cross-community lunch.

Later, the pair will have a private audience with Mr Robinson, Mr McGuinness and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers at the Royal quarters at Hillsborough Castle.

On Friday, the final day of the tour, the Royal couple will Mount Stewart house and gardens, marking the completion of a three-year restoration programme supported by local volunteers.

They will also visit Corrymeela, the North of Ireland’s oldest Peace and Reconciliation centre, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, where Prince Charles first visited in 1998.