Belfast Telegraph

Charles thrilled after meeting sports stars of past and future at Ulster University

By Leona O'Neill

The Prince of Wales arrived at Ulster University's Coleraine campus to the strains of the Mamas and Papas classic, California Dreamin', a nice nod to the recent nuptials of his son Harry and Meghan Markle.

The Prince was there to celebrate 50 years of the campus.

And as the university choir launched into Marmalade's Ob-la-Di, Ob-la-Da, Charles shook hands with the Sinn Fein Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Council, Brenda Chivers.

Afterwards, Ms Chivers said the encounter was "very interesting" and one that will "help reconciliation".

"I shook his hand," she said. "I had no problem with that. As I said when I became Mayor, I was going to be a Mayor for all of the people in our council area. And there are people who identify as British, as Irish, or whatever. So I am here to represent them. We are on a road now to reconciliation and hopefully this will help.

"We have moved on. Martin McGuinness was the first and hopefully I will not be the last."

University Provost Dr Karise Hutchinson led the Prince on a whistle-stop tour of the campus where he met with staff, students and academics.

He was shown research into land surface changes on Mars, projects on discovering and protecting First World War shipwrecks, heritage in the Irish Sea and also current mental health initiatives including research into veterans and sport. The Prince met with representatives from local disability sports partners, including those involved with football, tennis, wheelchair basketball and judo, to hear how they have benefited from the university's new £5.1m sports complex.

Among them was Gary Fowler, coach of the Coleraine Strikers Football team, made up of children with disabilities. Two of the star players were called Harry and William.

"We had our youth team with us today," said Gary.

"They were able to show off all the skills they have picked up over the last year. The Prince was highly impressed."

Charles also got to view the Irish Cup - won by Coleraine FC in May - on proud display in the Diamond Hall, and meet Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballing legend Harry Gregg. Mr Gregg said the Prince remembered him from their last encounter.

"I told him we had met before, when he gave me an MBE, and he remembered me," he explained.

"The man is a human being and has a sense of humour. That to me is very important. See all this stuff about royalty, you and I, who is King Billy and who is the Pope. The life I've had, I can't have that.

"You are my equal and I am your equal.

"To me, that is very important in life, no matter who you are.

"I think the same applies with Prince Charles."

The Prince concluded his visit by planting a tree outside the Riverside Theatre to commemorate his visit.

Belfast Telegraph

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