Belfast Telegraph

Pressure mounts on three Northern Ireland golf clubs to drop shamed Duke of York as a patron

Prince Andrew is currently patron of three golf clubs in Northern Ireland
Prince Andrew is currently patron of three golf clubs in Northern Ireland
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

Two Northern Ireland golf clubs have declined to say if they will drop the Duke of York as their patron.

And a third, Royal Portrush, has said it will discuss the controversy around the under-fire prince.

The club, which hosted the Open Championship this summer, has been urged to sever its links by a leading PR expert.

Andrew has faced a barrage of criticism following his controversial BBC interview on his links with US financier and paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Royal Belfast Golf Club lists Prince Andrew as a patron on its website. It states "the current patron is HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York".

The Belfast Telegraph made several attempts to contact the club on Thursday, but did not receive a response.

The Duke of York is also patron of the Royal Co Down Golf Club in Newcastle.

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When contacted, a staff member said that no one was immediately available for comment.

Yesterday Royal Portrush 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.

However, Nick Garbutt, one of the top PR practitioners and media commentators in Northern Ireland, said it is hard to understand what benefit keeping Prince Andrew as patron of Royal Portrush would bring.

He also believes that the club will drop the duke "sooner or later".

"This isn't the end of the matter," continued Mr Garbutt.

"You've got victims' lawyers who are going to be pursuing him and he's likely to be in the spotlight for a long, long time to come."

Mr Garbutt, who was previously deputy editor of the Belfast Telegraph, explained that Prince Andrew was made patron of the golf club because he is a member of the royal family, and inviting him to take on the role would have added prestige to Royal Portrush.

Following the allegations that have surrounded the prince, he has been forced to step down from all public duties.

Mr Garbutt believes that is because he has lost the prestige he previously possessed.

"The Queen and Prince Philip must have decided that him doing public duties is not actually doing the royal family any good," he added.

"So if he's not doing the royal family any good, what good is he doing for Royal Portrush?

"He will almost certainly lose all of his patronages. I think he's got around 200 and they're all going to have to go because you're not associating yourself with the royal family, as it would have been when he became patron, you're actually associating yourself with somebody who has had to step down from the royal family in unprecedented circumstances."

As well as being patron, Royal Portrush Golf Club hosts the Duke of York Young Champions Trophy, which he founded in 2001.

Andrew visited the club in September and was pictured attending the junior competition.

Yesterday Royal Portrush said: "The allegations surrounding Prince Andrew and especially the trauma and distress suffered by victims of Jeffrey Epstein is a matter of deep regret.

"Royal Portrush will continue to monitor the ongoing investigative process. There are no scheduled plans for him to return to the club.

"The council of Royal Portrush is acutely aware of the widespread public concern about these allegations and Prince Andrew's decision to step away from public duties will be discussed at our next meeting."

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

Buckingham Palace has said any connections the prince had was a matter for those organisations to determine how to deal with them.

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