Belfast Telegraph

Royal Portrush Golf Club to discuss Prince Andrew's decision on public duties at next meeting

The Duke of York attends The Duke of York Young Champions Trophy at the Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday September 9, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Andrew. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The Duke of York attends The Duke of York Young Champions Trophy at the Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday September 9, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Andrew. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

By Eimear McGovern, Claire Williamson and Margaret Canning

Royal Portrush Golf Club is to discuss the controversy surrounding Prince Andrew as the backlash grows over his ties with US financier and paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

The club said the allegations surrounding the prince - who remains a patron of the club - was a "matter of deep regret" and it would discuss his decision to step down from public duty at its next council meeting.

Scores of organisations, companies and charities have moved to distance themselves from the Duke after his BBC interview in which he did not express regret for his friendship with the disgraced US financier. Nor did he express remorse for his victims.

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.

Royal Portrush Golf Club - which hosted this year's prestigious Open championship - told the Belfast Telegraph it had no comment to make on its association with Prince Andrew.

However, later and in a statement to the BBC Stephen Nolan show, it 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 schedule plans for him to return to the club.

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"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."

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 golfing competition, despite objections from some club members.

Prince Andrew at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Co Antrim in September
Prince Andrew at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Co Antrim in September

The royal is also a patron of Catalyst, formerly the Northern Ireland Science Park. The site in Belfast's Titanic Quarter provides space and support for companies in the tech sector.

Catalyst has not responded to a request for comment on whether it would sever it ties with Andrew.

It is understood he would not be resigning his patronages, however, if asked to stand aside he would do so. Buckingham Palace has said any connections he had was a matter for those organisations to determine how to deal with them.

On Wednesday evening the prince announced he is stepping down from his public duties for the foreseeable future. He also said he would cooperate with any police investigation.

Lawyers for convicted sex offender Epstein's victims have urged Prince Andrew to tell US authorities if he knows anything.

The Queen and other senior royals are said to "100% back and believe" Andrew's defence of himself in the BBC interview with Emily Maitlis.

Last year one of three regional heats of the Duke of York's Pitch@Palace mentoring scheme to support technology start-ups and entrepreneurs took place in Belfast.

It was hosted by Catalyst Inc at the Ormeau Baths in September, supported by Barclays Eagle Labs, Belfast City Council and British Business Bank.

However, a regional heat was not held in Belfast this year.

Meanwhile, KPMG's sponsorship contract with Andrew's Pitch@Palace expired at the end of October and will not be renewed.

Buckingham Palace said: "KPMG's contract with Pitch@Palace ended at the end of October.

"A full programme of Pitch@Palace events is continuing across the United Kingdom."

Andrew visited Catalyst Inc in 2016 to open a new £6.5m extension at the site.

He said at the time: "Catalyst Inc is a game changer and is one of the best examples of an ecosystem and cluster to support and encourage entrepreneurship in the UK."

During the interview Andrew twice said his relationship with Epstein had some "seriously beneficial outcomes", giving him the opportunity to meet people and prepare for a future role as a trade envoy.

Andrew denied that he slept with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's victims, on three separate occasions, twice while she was under-age.

He claimed an alleged encounter in 2001 did not happen as he spent the day with his daughter, Princess Beatrice, taking her to Pizza Express in Woking for a party.

The American woman said the same alleged sexual liaison began with the duke sweating heavily as they danced at London nightclub Tramp.

However, Andrew said he had a medical condition at the time which meant he was unable sweat.

He said he had no recollection of meeting Ms Giuffre.

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