Thursday 22 February 2018

Prince Charles shakes hands with Martin McGuinness during Royal visit in Belfast

David Young and Claire Cromie

Prince Charles has shaken hands with Martin McGuinness as the four-day Royal visit came to Belfast.

The Prince of Wales visited a Catholic church that has been at the centre of a series of bitter marching disputes involving Protestant loyal orders and loyalist bands.

St Patrick's Church has witnessed disorder and discord in recent years, with some parading loyalist bandsmen accused of provocative and sectarian behaviour while passing the place of worship.

The visit of the prince and the Duchess of Cornwall will be seen as another symbolic gesture by a Royal family keen to contribute to reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Read more: 'Special, very special' - Prince Charles hopes to return to West as royal visit continues in Belfast

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were both present to welcome Charles and Camilla.

Last month 13 members of one loyalist band were convicted of playing a sectarian tune while marching in a circle on Donegall Street outside the chapel in 2012. The bandsmen, who were accompanying parading Orangemen, were found guilty of playing the so-called Famine Song, which is played to the same tune as the Beach Boys Sloop John B, but with anti-Catholic lyrics.

That incident marked the first of what would become a series of flashpoints incidents at the church. Weeks later disorder broke out after another parading controversy.

In subsequent summers, restrictions have been placed on loyal order parades passing the church, with residents from nearby nationalist neighbourhoods staging protests against the loyal orders and loyalist bands.

Read more: Prince Charles: The compassion shown by Mullaghmore community aided 'the healing process' for Lord Mountbatten's family

Loyal orders claim their lawful right to parade has been restricted and have insisted they have offered concessions in regard to limiting band music to hymns.

The royal couple are on the third of a four day visit to the island of Ireland.

After two days in the Republic of Ireland, they have travelled to Northern Ireland.

Yesterday Charles made an emotional trip to Mullaghmore in Co Sligo - the picturesque fishing village where his beloved great uncle Lord Mountbatten and three others were murdered by the IRA in 1979.

At St Patrick's, the royal couple met a cross section of parishioners and organisations involved in a wide range of church activities.

After the engagement, the royal couple are due to visit a number of community projects elsewhere in the city.

Belfast Telegraph

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