Belfast Telegraph

Harry urges young people to take control of Northern Ireland’s future

He made his remarks during a visit to the former Maze prison site where he met youngsters from both traditions.

A choir sing for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as they visit the Eikon Exhibition Centre in Lisburn (Niall Carson/PA)
A choir sing for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as they visit the Eikon Exhibition Centre in Lisburn (Niall Carson/PA)

Prince Harry urged young people in Northern Ireland to grip their future as he hailed as inspirational a cross-community project bringing thousands of children together.

He and Meghan Markle travelled to the site of the former Maze paramilitary prison outside Lisburn where around two and a half thousand young people gathered for the Amazing Space celebration.

The concert at the recently-built Eikon Centre saw teenagers from both sides of the region’s divided community share their hopes and dreams of a peaceful and reconciled future.

Addressing a small group of Protestant and Catholic school children at one point in the one-hour visit, Harry asked whether they had found it interesting to learn about each other’s religion.

“Hopefully you are spending a lot of time trying to educate your parents as well, it might be harder for some of you,” he said.

Pupils hailed the royal couple's down-to-earth attitude (Niall Carson/PA)

“You are the younger generation, you’ve got to grip your future, which is exactly what you are doing, which is amazing.

“Having so many of you together is inspiring, so well done.”

During the visit, the Royal couple impressed their teenage hosts as they dispensed with formalities.

They stunned a huge crowd of unsuspecting children when they arrived to take their seats in the front row.

They received a rapturous reception as they entered the huge performance arena to watching a fusion of song, dance and uplifting messages from young people as they deliver their “peace pledges”.

The couple briefly joined some of the performers on stage at the end of the event when they were presented with a picture of a “peace tree”.

The children cheered and captured the moment on hundreds of mobile phones as Harry and Ms Markle waved and smiled.

The visit to the centre in Lisburn marked the second year of youth-led peace-building initiative Amazing Space (Niall Carson/PA)

Afterwards, young people who met the royal couple remarked on how relaxed they had been.

Caoishe McLaughlin, 18, from St Brigid’s College in Londonderry, described the experience as “amazing”.

“We were expecting it to be more formal,” she said.

“And when they came in it was just so relaxed and we were kind of surprised at that – it was like, ‘is this actually a royal we are meeting’?”

Rossa Smallman, 17, from St Joseph’s in Derry, said the couple had not been what he had expected.

“We were told all the proper etiquette we had to carry out before we met them – and then when we actually met them they were very humble and down to earth,” he said.

“They were above that etiquette, they just seemed like normal people.”

Ryan Hegarty, 13, from Ballycastle High School, was similarly impressed by his encounter with the royals.

“It was a great experience because no-one else really gets to see the royal couple,” he said.

The royal couple were treated to a concert before meeting youngsters involved with the project (Niall Carson/PA)

He said the Amazing Space event, which was hosted by peace building charity Co-operation Ireland, was fantastic.

“We are trying to bring everybody together – I think that’s a great idea,” he said.

At the event, the couple met a host of dignitaries including Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Democratic Unionist leader and former Stormont first minister Arlene Foster.

During a video presentation demonstrating the positive impact sport has had on local society, the Royal couple watched throngs of Northern Ireland football supporters on the big screen singing the now anthemic Will Grigg’s On Fire song.

Peter Sheridan, chief executive of Co-operation Ireland, welcomed the special visitors.

He said the youth-led initiative was “integral to the development of a peaceful society in Northern Ireland”.

“To have so many young people in one place proactively speaking out in favour of peace and committing to living their lives through peaceful means can only bode well for society, and to have the royal family here to witness it makes it even more powerful,” he said.

Press Association


From Belfast Telegraph