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Prince to visit north's oldest peace centre

Prince Charles meets Rachel Lloyd (3), at the East Belfast Community Development Agency. Picture by Darren Staples, Press Association
Michael McHugh

PRINCE Charles will visit Northern Ireland's longest-established peace and reconciliation centre today at the conclusion of his poignant trip to Ireland.

The daughter of Lord Mountbatten, Charles's great uncle who was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979, has supported the Corrymeela Centre in Ballycastle, Co Antrim, for years in its work with victims of violence on all sides.

Charles paid tribute to his great uncle on Wednesday during an emotional visit to the scene of the killing on a boat off Co Sligo.

Yesterday he visited Belfast, where he toured St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street with his wife Camilla followed by several engagements at community projects across the city and a concert at Hillsborough Castle.

Corrymeela executive director Colin Craig said his centre is an appropriate place to end what will have been an emotional week for the prince.

"For many years we have worked with victims of violence on all sides and Prince Charles understands the pain of losing a close family member," he said.

"It is also poignant that some of our work with families and young people over the last few years has been supported by a fund set up by Countess Mountbatten in memory of her son Nicholas who was also killed in 1979."

Earl Mountbatten, who enjoyed summer holidays for decades at nearby Classiebawn Castle, was blown up on board the pleasure boat Shadow V after he set out from the harbour at Mullaghmore along Co Sligo's Atlantic coast to pick lobster pots and fish.

The other victims were Lady Doreen Brabourne (83), the mother-in-law of Mountbatten's daughter, who died a day later; Nicholas Knatchbull, the earl's grandson, who was 14; and his friend Paul Maxwell, a 15-year-old local boy from Killynure, Enniskillen, who had worked on preparing the royal boat for fishing.

Countess Mountbatten set up the Nicholas Knatchbull Memorial Fund in 2006 in memory of her son, Nicholas.

The fund has supported family week programmes at Corrymeela for several years.

The Corrymeela Centre worked with victims throughout the Troubles and opened its doors 50 years ago.

It sees around 11,000 people a year at its residential centre in Ballycastle.

Community leader Padraig O Tuama, who will host the visit and tour of the site, said: "Corrymeela's journey over the last 50 years has shown us the power of people telling their stories, of shared hospitality, of telling the truth about the present, of turning towards each other and finding strength, life and hope in each other.

"All are welcome to our site in Ballycastle, which has been a place of listening, acceptance and healing for thousands."

Corrymeela was founded by Ray Davey and students from Queen's University Belfast in 1965.

It uses dialogue, experiential play, art, storytelling, mealtimes and shared community to help groups embrace difference and learn how to have difficult conversations.

It works alongside visiting university groups as well as groups from other parts of the world who wish to learn from its experience, and learn how to apply the "Corrymeela lens" to fractures in their own societies.

The prince is also due to visit the National Trust's Mount Stewart on the shores of Strangford Lough today following the completion of a three-year restoration project.

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