Belfast Telegraph

Belfast tech hub reviewing link to Prince Andrew as more bodies in UK sever ties

The Duke of York earlier this year
The Duke of York earlier this year
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

Prince Andrew's patronage at Belfast Titanic Quarter's Catalyst is "under review".

A spokesperson for the site, which provides a space and support for companies in the tech sector and was formerly the Northern Ireland Science Park, made the statement on Friday.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson at Royal Belfast Golf Club, where the prince is also a patron, said there was "nothing to report" when asked if the club would be dropping the duke or if discussions over his patronage would take place.

Prince Andrew has come under fire since his controversial BBC interview on his links with US financier and paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Andrew is also a patron of the Royal Co Down Golf Club in Newcastle, and when contacted, a staff member said that no one was available for comment until Tuesday.

He is also patron of Killyleagh Yacht Club. It could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Royal Portrush Golf Club said the allegations surrounding the prince were a "matter of deep regret" and it would discuss his decision to step down from public duty at its next meeting.

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As well as Andrew being patron, Royal Portrush hosts the Duke of York Young Champions Trophy. Andrew visited the club in September and was pictured attending the junior competition.

Buckingham Palace has said any connections he had was a matter for those organisations.

It comes as the Duke of York has reportedly resigned from his role with his flagship business project Pitch@Palace after days of speculation about his future with the successful initiative he founded.

Andrew appears to have bowed to pressure and stepped down, with the move coming a day after one sponsor said his plans to continue leading Pitch were "not tenable".

High profile business sponsors KPMG, Standard Chartered and Inmarsat, a British satellite telecommunications company, have all said they will not be renewing their financial support for Pitch while Barclays, a partner of the project, ended its association with the initiative on Friday.

The Daily Telegraph reported sources as saying Andrew was no longer leading Pitch, which would continue without any royal involvement.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) was among a number of organisations which announced yesterday they would no longer be involved with Andrew, following the controversy around his friendship with convicted sex offender Epstein.

In a statement, an RPO spokesperson said: "Following HRH The Duke of York's announcement that he will be stepping back from public life, management representatives of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) met with Prince Andrew's office on Thursday afternoon.

"At a subsequent meeting of the RPO Board, it was decided that the Orchestra should part company with its patron, with immediate effect. The RPO would like to express its gratitude to His Royal Highness for his support of the Orchestra over the past 15 years."

Another arts body also reportedly severed its ties, with the English National Ballet accepting Andrew's resignation from his role as patron.

Andrew was expected to travel to the Middle East this weekend as part of his Pitch project but has cancelled plans following reported pressure from his family.

He was pictured yesterday out riding with the Queen in the grounds around Windsor Castle with two other riders.

It has also been reported his private secretary Amanda Thirsk has been removed from her palace-funded role and will instead become the chief executive of Pitch.

The Daily Mail said Ms Thirsk, believed to have been the driving force behind Andrew's BBC Newsnight interview, will now run the business mentorship scheme for start-ups and tech entrepreneurs after she was dismissed on Thursday.

Ms Thirsk will also manage the Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award after the duke quit his life as a working royal on Wednesday.

It has also been reported Buckingham Palace was disturbed by the mention of Andrew's relationship with Epstein in the ITV election debate on Tuesday. The Times said senior aides and the Prince of Wales advised the Queen that Andrew should be withdrawn from public life after concerns the scandal was overshadowing the democratic process.

Charles, who is on an official visit to New Zealand, was quizzed about events in the UK but ignored the question from a reporter about whether his brother should speak to US investigators about Epstein.

The duke will continue to work on Pitch and will look at how he takes this forward outside of his public duties, and outside of Buckingham Palace

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman would not comment on reports the duke had stepped down from leading Pitch.

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