Belfast Telegraph

Prince Harry's walkabout a hit with public at Belfast's MAC

 

By Claire McNeilly

It wasn't the greatest first impression Prince Harry could have had of Belfast.

Incessant rain, dark clouds and a biting wind ... but it was all warmth and sunny smiles when he arrived at the Mac theatre to meet an expectant crowd comprising youth organisations and school children.

Representatives from Co-operation Ireland, the event host, were also there to welcome the 32-year-old royal, who was casually dressed in a grey jacket and navy slacks, on his inaugural visit to Northern Ireland.

During his walkabout in the Mac, the prince learned how the leading peace-building charity was working to promote interaction and cross-community links between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

And, after an hour-long meet and greet inside, Harry, who is fifth in line to the throne, thrilled members of the public who were eagerly waiting outside by stopping to chat and posing for numerous selfies.

Emma Mason (29), a classroom assistant from Bangor, who was standing in the courtyard, was the envy of many when the dashing prince stopped to talk to her and admire her seven-month-old son Henry before his departure.

"He said hello to me but he talked mainly to Henry, whose jacket he was admiring," she said, admitting that she's a "big fan" of the Royal Family. "He asked me if I thought they made it in adult sizes too."

She added: "He seems like a really lovely person. He gave up a lot of his time to talk to people. Actually meeting him went beyond my expectations."

Her 30-year-old sister, Julia Crozier, was also there with her daughter Rebecca, who is almost five months old.

"Rebecca was crying in his face so he joked that her cousin Henry must have done something to upset her," said Julia. "I think she was simply overcome with emotion at having met a prince."

Harry, who also stopped to talk to two tourists from "hot and dry" Australia - for whom meeting him was "an unexpected bonus" - joked it must be "quite nice here, just to cool off".

After their meeting, Belfast's Lord Mayor, Nuala McAllister, described him as "a lovely person who's very genuine" and someone "who comes out of himself when he's talking to the public".

She added: "It's great for Belfast when someone from the Royal Family takes the time to visit."

Prince Harry also talked to children from schools across Northern Ireland, which are involved in the youth-led Amazing the Space programme, including three 17-year-olds from Londonderry. Niamh McCourt, from Lumen Christi, admitted she was a little starstruck and couldn't "wait to go back home and tell all her friends about the day".

Her schoolfriend Mark Gallagher said he was pleased that the prince had taken the time to come to Northern Ireland to hear about the project they were involved in.

"Fair play to him for showing such an interest in us. We've been working so hard and it deserves recognition and it's great that someone of his stature has given us that," he said.

Monica Sorrenti from Thornhill College said it was "a big deal" that he was visiting Belfast for the first time.

"It was a great opportunity for us to tell him about our peace pledges and what they mean to us," she said.

Co-operation Ireland's Catrina Gallen said the success of yesterday's event was down to a "massive team effort" and the Prince's "undeniable charm".

"He was so personable, he looked liked a family member," she said.

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