Belfast Telegraph

Prince Charles pays tribute to PSNI officers as he opens memorial garden

By Claire McNeilly

Prince Charles has paid tribute to the "service and sacrifice" of 13 police officers killed on duty in Northern Ireland since 2001 as he officially opened a garden of remembrance.

His Royal Highness joined relatives of officers who lost their lives or were injured in the line of duty at a special ceremony at the PSNI's Belfast headquarters yesterday.

The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall bowed their heads for a minute's silence before laying a wreath in honour of the dead and speaking to Chief Constable George Hamilton.

Mr Hamilton said: "This is a very special, but also sad day, for the families and PSNI as we remember those who have died."

In a particularly poignant moment, the Duchess received a bouquet of flowers from seven-year-old Victoria Grieves, whose father Constable Gary Grieves died in a road traffic collision as he was travelling home from work in August 2010.

She was among family members of fallen officers who gathered to meet Charles and Camilla at the official opening of the memorial paying tribute to their sacrifice.

It was 14 years since the Prince stood only yards away to open an adjoining garden commemorating the 300 RUC officers killed during the Troubles.

Among those at the garden yesterday was Kate Carroll, whose husband Stephen was murdered by dissident republicans in Craigavon, Co Armagh in 2009.

Constable Carroll's name is listed alongside the 12 others on the roll of honour on the striking Irish black limestone memorial wall.

Mrs Carroll described the memorial as a "fitting tribute" and said the Duchess encouraged her to stay strong and remain courageous.

"She just told me to keep on smiling and she said I have been brave and I said, 'Well, you have to be'," the police widow said, adding that it was "very comforting" to see her late husband being honoured.

As well as serving PSNI officers and police staff, former Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Garda representatives attended the ceremony.

Current PSNI chief George Hamilton said it was a day of "mixed feelings".

"There is the pride and poignancy of the day but also the sadness of it," he said. "We have 13 names on the wall of this memorial garden and that is 13 devastated families. Most of those families were able to join with us for this official opening.

"We were grateful too, that the significance and size of the sacrifice was marked by the attendance of their royal highnesses."

Police Federation of Northern Ireland chairman, Mark Lindsay, who represented the staff association at the event, said he was honoured to have been there to pay his respects to colleagues who lost their lives in tragic circumstances.

"I know the families are deeply appreciative of the way their loved ones are being remembered," he said.

"The Memorial Garden is a constant reminder to our wider community of the dangerous work officers do day and daily. It is right and proper that those who served and paid the ultimate price are remembered in this way."

The solemn event, during which the couple also viewed a new book of remembrance, started the couple's second day of their four-day trip to Ireland.

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