Belfast Telegraph

Prince Charles: My hope for blaze-hit Primark Bank Buildings

New Sinn Fein Lord Mayor welcomes the royal couple

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in Belfast city centre
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in Belfast city centre
Charles shakes hands with new Lord Mayor of Belfast John Finucane
The Prince gazes up at the restoration work at Bank Buildings
The Prince of Wales meeting workers during a visit to Bank Buildings
The Duchess of Cornwall chats to the public yesterday
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

It was a building fit for a king and Prince Charles was certainly impressed with the work going on to restore it to its regal best.

The Prince and Duchess of Cornwall visited the fire-damaged Bank Buildings in Belfast city centre yesterday on the second day of their Northern Ireland trip.

Hundreds lined Royal Avenue ahead of their stop-off at Primark and there were loud cheers when the cavalcade arrived a little before noon.

Crowd-control barriers had been erected and a wide-scale security operation was in place as they were shown the ongoing restoration work to the edifice, which was devastated by a blaze last August.

After being shown inside the building, and meeting some of the firefighters and police officers involved in the aftermath of the blaze, the Prince, who has a long-standing interest in architecture, said: "I hope it comes back to life soon."

Prince Charles and Camilla, who was wearing an elegant teal green skirt suit, were greeted by the new Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast, John Finucane, who was exercising one of his first official duties.

It came hours after the 39-year-old son of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane was warned by police of a loyalist death threat against him.

Historically, some members of Sinn Fein have been reluctant to meet members of the royal family but, ahead of his installation on Tuesday, Mr Finucane said he was ready to do so.

One of the raptured royal watchers lucky enough to get up close and personal to the King-in-waiting and duchess was 22-year-old self-professed "super fan" Grace Simpson from Holywood.

"I congratulated Camilla on the birth of their new grandson Archie and she thanked me," said Grace, who recently finished university.

"I thought the highlight of my week was going to be getting the results of my final exams but nothing can top meeting Prince Charles and Camilla.

"I loved the duchess's outfit. She was so nice. Very friendly. Up until now, she was the only member of the royal family I hadn't met before."

Grace, who was there yesterday with her mother Catherine Simpson, a former teacher, revealed that she met Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, in 2011, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ahead of their wedding in Windsor in May 2018.

"I was standing outside the Crown Bar in Belfast last March when Harry and Meghan visited ahead of their wedding," she said.

"I'm an avid royal follower so I was really delighted when I got to meet Meghan and speak to her personally last year and I can't believe I've been fortunate enough to meet Charles and Camilla."

Best friends Norma Jones, who is in her early 70s, and Phyllis Wilson (70), both from Belfast, told of their delight at getting a word with the royal visitors.

"I got to shake hands with Camilla and I told her she looked well," said Norma.

"She was very polite, very friendly and genuinely very nice and asked me if I was retail shopping."

Meanwhile, Phyllis said she was "a lot more petite in real life than she looks when you see her on television".

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are pictured meeting people in Belfast City Centre as part of their 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Picture Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are pictured meeting people in Belfast City Centre as part of their 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Picture Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
The Prince of Wales speaking with the new Lord Mayor of Belfast John Finucane during a visit to The Bank Buildings in Belfast, where a fire broke out in a Primark store in August 2018, nearly caused the iconic structure to collapse. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales and Duchess Of Cornwall attended a walkabout and visited the Primark store following the blaze which destroyed the iconic building last August. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 22: Camilla, Duchess Of Cornwall during a visit to Belfast on May 22, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Prince of Wales and Duchess Of Cornwall attended a walkabout and visited the Primark store following the blaze which destroyed the iconic building last August. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 22: Prince Charles, Prince Of Wales during a visit to Belfast on May 22, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Prince of Wales and Duchess Of Cornwall attended a walkabout and visited the Primark store following the blaze which destroyed the iconic building last August. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 22: Camilla, Duchess Of Cornwall during a visit to Belfast on May 22, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Prince of Wales and Duchess Of Cornwall attended a walkabout and visited the Primark store following the blaze which destroyed the iconic building last August. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 22: Prince Charles, Prince Of Wales during a visit to Belfast on May 22, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Prince of Wales and Duchess Of Cornwall attended a walkabout and visited the Primark store following the blaze which destroyed the iconic building last August. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 22: Prince Charles, Prince Of Wales during a visit to Belfast on May 22, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Prince of Wales and Duchess Of Cornwall attended a walkabout and visited the Primark store following the blaze which destroyed the iconic building last August. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 22: Prince Charles, Prince Of Wales during a visit to Belfast on May 22, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Prince of Wales and Duchess Of Cornwall attended a walkabout and visited the Primark store following the blaze which destroyed the iconic building last August. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are pictured meeting people in Belfast City Centre as part of their 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Picture Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd May 2019 - The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are pictured meeting people in Belfast City Centre as part of their 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Picture Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd May 2019 - The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are pictured meeting people in Belfast City Centre as part of their 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Picture Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd May 2019 - The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are pictured meeting people in Belfast City Centre as part of their 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Picture Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are pictured meeting people in Belfast City Centre as part of their 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Picture Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd May 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye The Prince of Wales is pictured at the Palace Demesne, Armagh during his 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. The rugby and GAA players present HRH with two shirts as he left the Palace.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd May 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye The Prince of Wales is pictured at the Palace Demesne, Armagh during his 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. He met Ulster and Ireland Rugby star Rory Best and Manager of Armagh County GAA, Kieran McGeeney during a 'game of two halves' which brings together young rugby and GAA players
The Prince of Wales is given a guard of honour by pupils from St Patrick's Grammar School, Armagh and The Royal School, Armagh, after an engagement at Palace Demense in Co. Armagh. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales blowing a whistle during an engagement at Palace Demense in Co. Armagh. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales signing the visitors book at Palace Demense in Co. Armagh with Armagh Lord Mayor Mealla Campbell, sitting infront of portraits of his ancestors King George III, and Queen Charlotte, painted by Scottish portrait-painter Alan Ramsey. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
RETRANSMITTED WITH CORRECT CAPTION The Prince of Wales meeting members of the Lugan District Loyal Orange No.6, during his visit to Brownlow House, Lugan, on the second day of his tour of Northern Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
RETRANSMITTED WITH CORRECT CAPTION The Prince of Wales during his visit to Brownlow House, Lugan, on the second day of his tour of Northern Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales looks at the Ulster rugby and Armagh GAA county jersey he was presented by pupils from The Royal School, Armagh, and St Patrick's Grammar School, Armagh, following an engagement at Palace Demense in Co. Armagh. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales is given a guard of honour by pupils from St Patrick's Grammar School, Armagh and The Royal School, Armagh, after an engagement at Palace Demense in Co. Armagh. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales is given a guard of honour by pupils from St Patrick's Grammar School, Armagh and The Royal School, Armagh, after an engagement at Palace Demense in Co. Armagh. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales meeting the choir during his visit to Brownlow House, Lugan, on the second day of his tour of Northern Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales with pupils from St Patrick's Grammar School, Armagh and The Royal School, Armagh, during an engagement at Palace Demense in Co. Armagh. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales at the Finnebrogue Artisan event in Downpatrick, Co Down, on the second day of the Royal couple's visit to Northern Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales meets 9-month-old Margot Dixon, Esme Dixon, 2, and Denis Lynn at the Finnebrogue Artisan event in Downpatrick, Co Down, on the second day of the Royal couple's visit to Northern Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales during a visit to Belfast Synagogue on the second day of the Royal couple's visit to Northern Ireland. Joe Giddens/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis during a visit to Belfast Synagogue on the second day of the Royal couple's visit to Northern Ireland. Joe Giddens/PA Wire
HRH The Prince of Wales meets members of the Hebrew Community at the Belfast Hebrew Congregation. Photo by Aaron McCracken
HRH The Prince of Wales meets members of the Hebrew Community at the Belfast Hebrew Congregation. Photo by Aaron McCracken
HRH The Prince of Wales meets guests at the Belfast Hebrew Congregation. Photo by Aaron McCracken
The Prince of Wales during a visit to Belfast Synagogue on the second day of the Royal couple's visit to Northern Ireland. Joe Giddens/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales unveils a plaque during a visit to Belfast Synagogue on the second day of the Royal couple's visit to Northern Ireland. Joe Giddens/PA Wire
HRH The Prince of Wales unveiled a plaque at the Belfast Hebrew Congregation today to mark the installation of two new stain glass windows in the Synagogue. Photo by Aaron McCracken
HRH The Prince of Wales pictured with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis as he visits at the Belfast Hebrew Congregation. Photo by Aaron McCracken
HRH The Prince of Wales meets Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis as he arrives at the Belfast Hebrew Congregation. Photo by Aaron McCracken
The Prince of Wales speaking with the new Lord Mayor of Belfast John Finucane during a visit to The Bank Buildings in Belfast, where a fire broke out in a Primark store in August 2018, nearly caused the iconic structure to collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd May 2019 - The Duchess of Cornwall is pictured meeting people at the Belfast Welcome Organisation in west Belfast during her 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Belfast Welcome Organisation has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1977. Photo by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd May 2019 - The Duchess of Cornwall is pictured meeting people at the Belfast Welcome Organisation in west Belfast during her 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Belfast Welcome Organisation has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1977. Photo by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd May 2019 - The Duchess of Cornwall is pictured meeting people at the Belfast Welcome Organisation in west Belfast during her 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Belfast Welcome Organisation has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1977. Photo by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd May 2019 - The Duchess of Cornwall is pictured meeting people at the Belfast Welcome Organisation in west Belfast during her 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Belfast Welcome Organisation has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1977. Photo by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd May 2019 - The Duchess of Cornwall is pictured meeting people at the Belfast Welcome Organisation in west Belfast during her 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Belfast Welcome Organisation has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1977. Photo by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd May 2019 - The Duchess of Cornwall is pictured meeting people at the Belfast Welcome Organisation in west Belfast during her 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Belfast Welcome Organisation has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1977. Photo by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd May 2019 - The Duchess of Cornwall is pictured meeting people at the Belfast Welcome Organisation in west Belfast during her 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Belfast Welcome Organisation has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1977. Photo by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd May 2019 - The Duchess of Cornwall is pictured meeting people at the Belfast Welcome Organisation in west Belfast during her 2 day visit to Northern Ireland. Belfast Welcome Organisation has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1977. Photo by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye.
The Prince of Wales with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis during a visit to Belfast Synagogue on the second day of the Royal couple's visit to Northern Ireland.Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales during a visit to Belfast Synagogue on the second day of the Royal couple's visit to Northern Ireland. Joe Giddens/PA Wire
The Duchess of Cornwall visit the Belfast Welcome Organisation which has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1997. Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The Duchess of Cornwall visits the Belfast Welcome Organisation which has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1997. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The Duchess of Cornwall arrives for her visit to the Belfast Welcome Organisation which has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1997. Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The Duchess of Cornwall arrives for her visit to the Belfast Welcome Organisation which has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1997. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The Duchess of Cornwall visits the Belfast Welcome Organisation which has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1997. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The Duchess of Cornwall visits the Belfast Welcome Organisation which has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1997. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The Duchess of Cornwall arrives for her visit to the Belfast Welcome Organisation which has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1997. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The Duchess of Cornwall arrives for her visit to the Belfast Welcome Organisation which has been providing potentially life-saving services and support to people affected by homelessness in Belfast since 1997. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales attends a reception at the Grand Central Hotel hosted by The Spirit of Belfast to celebrate those involved in delivering the success of the tourism and artisan food sectors in Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire

"It was a great experience to actually talk to her," she said.

"I think it's very important that her and Charles decided to come here to Belfast and to visit the scene of the fire which brought so much devastation to the economy."

A male American passer-by said: "Charles seems like a regular guy. He's visited Northern Ireland five times in five years so he must be!"

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