Belfast Telegraph

Duke of York ‘standing back’ from all Northern Ireland patronages amid interview backlash

Royal criticised over a perceived lack of empathy for the victims of convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

The Duke of York speaking on Newsnight about his links to Jeffrey Epstein (Mark Harrison/BBC/PA)
The Duke of York speaking on Newsnight about his links to Jeffrey Epstein (Mark Harrison/BBC/PA)

The Duke of York is standing down temporarily from all of the Northern Ireland organisations of which he is a patron after the backlash which followed an interview he gave to BBC’s Newsnight programme.

The Prince is patron of three Northern Ireland golf clubs as well as a Belfast technology innovation centre and a yacht club.

Andrew has faced criticism for showing a lack of empathy towards the victims of his late friend, convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

The duke was also criticised for what was seen by many as a lack of remorse over his friendship with Epstein, who took his own life in prison earlier this year while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

He described Epstein's behaviour as "unbecoming" and when challenged said he was "being polite". Later in a statement he said he "deeply sympathised" with those affected. He admitted his association with Epstein had become a "major disruption" for the royal family.

Andrew also faces the prospect of Virginia Giuffre – an alleged Epstein victim who claims she had under-age sex with the duke, which he strenuously denies – being interviewed on BBC’s Panorama programme early in December.

High-profile business sponsors KPMG, Standard Chartered and Inmarsat, a British satellite telecommunications company, all said they would not renew their support for the Prince's initiative Pitch@Palace while Barclays, a partner of the project, ended its association on Friday.

The duke has over 230 patronages. Previously it was reported he would not stand down from any organisation, but would accept a decision from those organisations if they decided to sever ties.

Royal Portrush Golf Club and Belfast technology innovation centre Catalyst both said they would review their association with the Duke.

Royal Co Down Golf Club in Newcastle and Royal Belfast at Holywood have not commented on the matter. All four organisations have again been approached for comment.

He is also patron of Killyleagh Yacht Club which has so far not commented on the matter.

A spokeswoman for the duke added: "He will be stepping back from public duty and temporarily standing back from all his patronages.

“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.

“We recognise there will be a period of time while this transition takes place.”

Meanwhile, it has been reported the Queen has cancelled a party she was to host for Andrew’s 60th birthday on February 19.

There were plans for a formal reception for Andrew and the charities he was a patron of.

When the Prince of Wales turned 60 in 2008, he was given a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park and a party with more than 400 guests including European royalty and members of his charity.

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