Prince Charles makes £2,000 donation to St Patrick's Church
PRINCE Charles has donated £2,000 to restoration work at the historic St Patrick's Church in Belfast city centre, following a high-profile visit to the building in May.
The money will go towards renovation of the church's distinctive spire.
A fundraising drive over recent years will allow work to begin in the new year, although plans will not be fully realised as donations have not yet matched the total cost for the first phase of the church restoration project, estimated at £1.5m.
Fr Michael Sheehan, parish priest of St Patrick's, said there had been many generous bequests and donation from individual parishioners, but the gift from the Prince of Wales had come as a surprise.
"We were surprised to receive a donation as he doesn't give a donation to every group that he visits," he said.
"I think it has come from his own appreciation of built heritage, an appreciation which has always been there. There is some heritage here, with the site used to celebrate Mass from 1815."
He added: "In particular the parish gratefully acknowledges the help, support, advice and recent grant by Heritage Lottery Fund of £120,000. Such generosity will enable essential works to commence on the church's spire in January 2016."
Along with his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles visited St Patrick's in May during a four-day trip to Ireland and as part of the church's 200-year anniversary celebrations.
The visit had added political significance as the church has been at the centre of a parades dispute since loyalist bandsmen were filmed marching in a circle playing the 'Famine Song' outside the building in 2012.
The royal visitor, who was greeted by the first and deputy first ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, was shown round the church, which he described as "beautiful", and examined the plans for the restoration work.