Belfast Telegraph

Duchess visits RUC memorial garden

The Duchess of Cornwall has fulfilled a wedding day promise when she paid a poignant visit to the memorial garden commemorating the sacrifice of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The event was one of a series of engagements carried out by the Duchess and the Prince of Wales as their two-day trip to Northern Ireland drew to a close.

But the chairman of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) George Cross Foundation, which marks the memory of the force since it gave way to the new Police Service of Northern Ireland a decade ago, said the royal visit was also the fulfilment of a long standing promise.

Jim McDonald revealed how six years ago at the royal couple's wedding, and only minutes after the Duchess had made her vows, he had persuaded her to give the "second promise" she made that day.

The Foundation chair said: "I was invited with some of my trustees to the wedding. When they came out of the church and down the steps, Charles said, 'There's Jim McDonald', and the two of them came over and spoke to me. I of course gave her the 'hard sell' about the garden and how wonderful it is.

"The Prince of Wales is our patron and has proved very, very supportive of all we do. And we, being a royal force, really appreciate the royal connection. So we are delighted that the Duchess has come."

The Duchess visited the memorial garden, based in the grounds of police headquarters in Belfast, to present The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service to the volunteers of the foundation in recognition of their role.

Former officers, police widows and relatives were present for the event, which was also attended by PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Justice Minister David Ford.

Mr McDonald said the honour was a "unique distinction".

"It reinforces the royal connection, and it really is to reward all the volunteers," he said.

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