Northern Ireland news

Michelle O'Neill pulls out of meeting with Prince Charles

 The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall during a visit to Belfast City Hall in Donegall Square, Belfast. Picture date: Tuesday May 18, 2021.

Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said that it was "not possible for" her to meet with the Prince of Wales at Hillsborough Castle during his two-day visit.

In her statement, it did not outline the reason. RTE News reported that it is thought the recent ruling in the Ballymurphy massacre inquest played a role in Michelle O’Neill’s decision, because of Prince Charles’s position as colonel in chief of the Army’s Parachute Regiment.

Coroner Mrs Justice Keegan ruled last week that 10 people killed during an operation by the Parachute Regiment at Ballymurphy in west Belfast in 1971 were innocent civilians.

In a statement to PA, Ms O’Neill said: “I met Prince Charles on his last visit to the north last September and recently expressed our condolences to him and his family on the death of his father.

“On this occasion a meeting was not possible.

“The British royals have made a very positive contribution to the development of peace and reconciliation.”

First Minister Arlene Foster did take part in the meeting with Charles but did not make any comment to media afterwards.

Last year, Ms O'Neill met with Prince Charles at Hillsborough Castle with his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. They discussed Brexit, the partition of Ireland and Bloody Sunday.

 Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill meeting Prince Charles at Hillsborough Castle. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/PressEye/PA

Yesterday, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall met with a number of youth workers.

The visit to the headquarters of the Education Authority in Belfast city centre focused on how youth services are helping children and young people across Northern Ireland.

Charles and Camilla heard reflections from young people on how youth workers had impacted their lives.

In a speech to youth workers, the Prince of Wales said he was inspired by their “tireless work” to bring reconciliation.

“I cannot tell you how really inspiring it has been to hear of the tireless work being carried out by youth workers on all sides of the community, and I just wanted to take this opportunity, if I may, to pay special tribute to your dedication and commitment to the cause of peaceful co-existence,” he said.

“We must never underestimate the risk – and of course the cost – of holding to peaceful ways, and how much determination and courage is necessary.

“All of you whom I have met here today and many more of your colleagues in your communities have shown those qualities in the most challenging circumstances. We owe you a deep debt of gratitude and above all of admiration.

“Whenever I visit I never cease to be profoundly moved by the work that is being done to heal the pain of the past, to bring understanding and reconciliation in the present and to build hope for the future.

“All who love this very special part of the world can only wish you renewed strength of spirit and resolve as you take forward this work of such vital importance to these islands.”

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