There was an overriding sense of relief in Portrush yesterday after Prince Andrew was stripped of his honorary title at the Co Antrim town’s golf club.
Royal Portrush is one of three golf clubs in Northern Ireland that was dragged into the royal scandal when allegations involving the duke began to surface.
The Queen took the drastic action of removing her son’s royal patronages on Thursday following his civil sexual assault case.
Prince Andrew is now facing a court showdown after a judge ruled on Wednesday that Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit against him could go ahead.
Ms Giuffre is suing the duke in the US for allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager.
She claims she was trafficked by the now deceased Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with Andrew when she was 17 and a minor under US law.
The duke has always strenuously denied the allegations.
Prince Andrew’s links to Northern Ireland include his honorary titles at Royal Portrush, Royal Belfast and Royal County Down golf clubs.
He visited Portrush when it hosted The Open in 2019 and returned later the same year to play the links course.
The duke was a long-time patron of the club and opened its new clubhouse on the Bushmills Road in 1999.
Driving into the coastal town, you are hit with the sights of the beautiful Royal Portrush course before being greeted with a sign marking The Open.
Hosting the oldest golf tournament in the world is an honour for any golf club but the accusations surrounding Prince Andrew has soured any success, despite Royal Portrush being totally innocent.
A source close to all three golf clubs said it was a huge relief that any awkward decision to cut the duke’s ties was taken out of their hands.
While Royal Portrush declined to comment on the issue, the vast majority of people in the town who spoke to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday felt it was right to see Prince Andrew’s links to the club removed. Owner of R&J Hillis, Norman Hillis, said there was a picture of Andrew on display in Royal Portrush’s clubhouse but it was removed after initial allegations began to surface.
“Buckingham Palace have withdrawn all of his honours, his patronages, his military titles,” added Mr Hillis.
“If you’re talking about the club, they are more or less along the same lines.
“The whole situation is poor for the royal family who, to my mind, are at a high point in popularity, but unfortunately this whole case with Prince Andrew has been a blot and I think the palace has acted correctly and Royal Portrush has acted correctly.
“I think it has simplified the whole thing for Royal Portrush and it’s good from the golf club’s point of view.”
Francis Crickard felt Royal Portrush was “probably waiting” to find out what decision the Queen would make before deciding to cut their affiliation with Prince Andrew.
“They really, I am sure, appreciate having Royal in their title but they need another royal who is going to be a ‘Royal’ because that’s bringing shame to Royal Portrush,” she said.
“To have him removed, I think it was essential.
“Having his titles removed made it much easier for the club.
“It’s important that if a club has a royal connection, that that royal connection enhances it rather than bringing shame to it. He had to go.”
Joanne Neely wasn’t too critical of the duke and felt there are two sides to every story.
She said: “I think it’s a bit harsh on him. The royal connection was good for the town but it’s not going to take anything away from Portrush.
“I’d rather have waited to see what the court says.”
Other people around the town were happy to speak about Prince Andrew but declined to give their name as their personal opinion on the royals could adversely affect their business.
The overwhelming mood was one of relief that the patronages had been removed.
Elsewhere, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said any decision to rename Carrickfergus street Prince Andrew Way is a matter for elected councillors.
“If action was requested, this would be considered in line with council’s policies and procedures,” it added.
The owner of Belfast’s Duke of York pub in the Cathedral Quarter, Willie Jack, was adamant the name of the bar will not be changed as it was named after the famous steamer passenger ship, which was built by Belfast’s Harland and Wolff and completed in 1935.
“The Duke of York was a great ship built and launched in Belfast. It’s just a name and a lot of people just call the bar ‘The Duke’ anyway, so we have no opinion either way. Whatever is going on will not affect our name change,” he said.