Belfast Telegraph

'Bewildered' reaction as Irish hotel cancels Harry and Meghan wedding event after republican complaints

By Leona O'Neill

In Londonderry's Fountain Estate, preparations are underway for a lively and colourful street party to mark the occasion of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday.

Bunting is being placed around the community centre, ladies are feverishly fashioning wedding hats and a mountain of sandwiches with the crusts cut off are being prepared.

Just 16 miles down the road, across the border in the sleepy Donegal seaside town of Buncrana, the royal wedding is as much a talking point - but for different reasons.

One of the local hotels found itself in a right royal storm at the weekend after it cancelled a Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea event - that would have allowed guests to watch the nuptials while being plied with tea, scones, cakes and sandwiches - following intense social media pressure from republicans in Northern Ireland.

The plush Inishowen Gateway Hotel on the shores of Lough Swilly, one of Donegal's top wedding destinations, called off Saturday's celebration and apologised for any offence caused.

But people in Buncrana, many of them unfamiliar with the political weight events such as the royal wedding might carry just up the road in Northern Ireland, have been left bewildered that their home town is in the spotlight.

And they are angry that they will now have to watch proceedings in their own homes and make their own neatly cut cucumber sandwiches.

Liam Smith runs a barber shop on Main Street. He said many local women were looking forward to the day.

"As far as I can see, people didn't really care about the royal wedding," he said.

"But I think a lot of women were looking forward to going to have afternoon tea in the hotel and now their day is ruined.

"It should not have been cancelled. Are we to be threatened? They were intimidated into cancelling it.

"The people who put pressure on the hotel are very narrow minded and have been living their lives like that for a long time. They had no permission to do that to the hotel."

Traffic warden Jackie McCrudden said the hotel shouldn't have cancelled the event.

"I hope Meghan and Harry are really happy," she said.

"I have nothing against them at all. I don't think that the Inishowen Gateway should have cancelled their event. It was only a bit of fun at the end of the day. Each to their own. It's not the same down here as it would be in the north.

"I have no issues one way or the other. It's two people getting married and that's it."

And Anna Porter thought the cancellation of the 'celebration of love' was sad.

"I think Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are the most lovely of couples," she said.

"It's a celebration of love, like any wedding. I think it's sad that the hotel cancelled the event. I really do."

Billy Porter said he will now have to sit at home and make his own tea. "It's ridiculous that I can't go and just enjoy watching the wedding and having a bit of craic," he added. "Why should they not enjoy the royal wedding? I'm a Donegal man and I'll be sitting watching it to see the style, irrespective of politics.

"I don't think they should deprive people like myself from going. I'll just watch it in my own home and will have to make my own tea."

Melanie Connolly said that people are free to spend their money however they like and that the event should not have been cancelled.

"I know there are a lot of Irish people who don't like the British monarchy," she said.

"But it's people's choice if they want to attend these things. I think that it's ridiculous that the event has been cancelled. If people support the royal family, why shouldn't they go?

"People are talking about it online. Some are saying that it was wrong to cancel, others are saying why should we celebrate the royal family.

"But I think if people want to spend their money and go to the event, let them go." British holidaymaker Pauline Seymour said she was saddened to hear of the local event being called off. "I think the royal wedding will be wonderful," she said.

"I think Harry and Meghan have brought a lot to the royal family and we are very proud to have a royal family.

"I think it's sad that the hotel were intimidated into cancelling their event. I'm not sure why they did it, but it's sad to think that they're influenced when there is such a good thing happening.

"We will be watching it back home in Birmingham on TV."

But not everyone was a fan. Leo Gallagher said he definitely won't be anywhere near a TV on Saturday. "I don't care about the royal wedding," he said. "You'd think she was the only woman in the world who was getting married.

"I am not a republican, I am a nationalist. I think the royal family are spongers and I dislike them intently.

"I will definitely not be watching it on Saturday and I think the hotel did right to cancel their event. I wouldn't have the royal family near me."

But local businesses had a very different view and were gearing up to keep an eye on proceedings for other reasons.

Brendan Callaghan, owner of Callaghan's Jewellers in Main Street, said he would be paying particular attention to the ring on Meghan's finger. "From a professional point of view I'll be interested to see what wedding band she chose to go with her wedding ring," he said.

"My eye will be on that more than anything else. I deal with couples every week who are getting married. Generally, there is no stress. If I had any advice for Harry and Meghan it would be to enjoy themselves. It's their big day, nobody else's."

And Charlie McDaid from Topline Fashions said he would be taking in the style on show on the day. "We are in the wedding style business," he said.

"Saturday will be an ordinary day for us here in the shop. But it will be a lovely occasion, all weddings are.

"I deal with people going to weddings every day of the week. It's such a big occasion for the whole family.

"You do see people get a bit uptight. Everyone's the same. As far as Meghan Markle's father goes, I think he should forget about everyone and just go to the wedding."

And even in the world of politics, there were wedding fans. Rena Donaghey, Fianna Fail councillor for Inishowen, said the hotel's royal event was "nothing but a storm in a tea cup".

"Nobody in Buncrana is talking about the cancelled event, absolutely nobody," she said.

"This is just a storm in a teacup. This is really, really petty.

"This is one of the best hotels in the country. They are not in any way politically minded. All they want to do is provide the best service they can.

"They've another wedding that day and they did not want for this to detract in any way from that bride and groom, because they want them to have the best day of their life."

Editor of the Donegal News Columba Gill said that the royal wedding was not a huge talking point among the public until the controversy broke on the cancellation. "There has been no great talk about it one way or the other, until this issue arose," he said. "And even then people were bemused by the opposition to the hotel having an event like that. We know from experience that a lot of people will be watching the royal wedding in the privacy of their own homes.

"I'm not sure there would be a lot of royalists in Donegal. There are lots of people who have an interest in the royal family and the goings on, in the same way that they would have an interest in Coronation Street and the goings on there.

"We had Prince Charles and Camilla here last year and there was terrific interest in that visit and they were given a very warm welcome, although there was some opposition to it.

"We have had incidents in the past where a Union Flag was flown up in Dunfanaghy last year, and that generated some opposition.

"But it tends to come from the same sources and they are really in a minority."

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