Camilla joins Charles in getting to grips with Gaeilge on Belfast trip
Published 22/05/2015 | 02:30
Britain's Prince Charles took his mission of reconciliation to Belfast yesterday as he attended a service at a Catholic church that has been at the centre of bitter marching disputes.
Following their two-day visit to the Republic, the prince and his wife Camilla flew North to carry out engagements on both sides of the religious divide.
They began the day at St Patrick's Catholic Church in Belfast city centre, which became a flashpoint during the loyalist marching season after Protestants sang a provocative anti-Irish song outside the building.
He met Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, who commented on the prince's attempts at speaking Irish during events in the West.
Mr McGuinness, who met the prince for the second time in three days at the service, said: "For me what it says to everybody in Belfast is that in terms of the community tensions we have seen on the streets, that that needs to end. And we need to show respect to communities and we need to recognise... that when people get together... anything is possible."
He said after chatting to the prince: "I told him that I thought it was tremendous that he honoured the Irish language, and that he spoke very well in Irish, and I think that he was very pleased at that."
Fr Brendan McGee (90), a retired priest who also met the prince at St Patrick's, said: "He came especially to this church because this church was insulted. I'm very pleased that he came - I could not be more delighted. He is giving leadership."
Among the other guests were the Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast, Arder Carson, and the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson.
Later in the day, Camilla received an impromptu Irish lesson at a community centre in the heart of east Belfast.
She was warmly welcomed on her solo visit to the Skainos Centre on the lower Newtownards Road to celebrate those who are organising Big Lunch events across Northern Ireland.
Among the community activists she met was Linda Ervine, who greeted her in Irish.
Prince Charles used the Irish language during a speech in Sligo on Wednesday; yesterday his wife asked Mrs Ervine for a quick lesson in the tongue.
"She asked me how to say thank you in Irish, which I did, and she pronounced it very well," Mrs Ervine said.
"She said she had tucked a bit of paper with the Irish for thank you on it up her sleeve on Wednesday, but it had dropped out, so she was keen to learn how to say thank you in Irish again."