UK royal couple Edward and Sophie barred from Ulster restaurant
A royal visit to Rathlin Island has ended in farce after the Earl and Countess of Wessex were barred from eating in a local restaurant.
They may be used to smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches but the royal couple had to make do with sausage rolls and vol-au-vents in a pub during the first official royal visit to Rathlin Island.
Prince Edward and his wife Sophie had been due to eat at the Manor House restaurant during their brief trip to the remote island off the North Antrim coast.
But the VIP couple were forced to rethink their lunch plans and take their entourage to the nearby Bruce’s Kitchen at the local pub when the award-winning restaurant refused the booking.
NIO officials were left red-faced by the last-minute snub and hastily organised the more modest catering arrangements.
Even more embarrassing, the Manor House establishment is owned by the National Trust — Edward’s brother Prince Charles is patron of the conservation charity.
Local representatives have described the first royal visit to Rathlin as “an embarrassment”.
Damien McFaul, who has run the Manor House for the past five years, denied there was any political motivation behind his decision to stop the royals from eating in his restaurant.
He also rejected speculation that the couple were not welcome.
The 30-year-old, who is from Rathlin, said he had “no objections” to royalty and blamed a lack of information from the NIO about security arrangements for the mix-up.
“This has all been blown out of proportion,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“We are sorry this situation has arisen and had hoped for more information as to the nature of the event.
“We felt that not knowing who the guests were left us in a position where it was difficult to accept the booking for a number of reasons.”
He added: “One of these reasons is concern about the media attention that this may have brought to our family home where we live with our son on Rathlin.
“Another is that we have guests staying in the house on a daily basis and were worried that it may intrude on their privacy. Also, we were not told about any security policy in our home on the day of the event by any organiser.
“We only found out through the local community about the strict security measures.
“This concerned us greatly — it made us apprehensive as to who was being brought into our home.”
It is understood the Northern Ireland Office, which is responsible for planning royal visits, took the decision to change the venue for the royal luncheon in recent days.
However, an NIO spokesman said he could not comment on the arrangements.
“We were scheduled to go to Bruce’s restaurant,” he said.
Prince Edward and Sophie were apparently unaware of the controversy and were said to have enjoyed the food provided at Bruce’s Kitchen before visiting the local primary school and bird sanctuary.
Peter McCurdy, who runs the bar and cafe, said: “I just welcomed them into the bar. They were very nice and very pleasant. They ate sandwiches, vol-au-vents, sausage rolls, cocktail sausages and cakes.
“We provide meals for everybody.”
Meanwhile, long-standing Moyle councillor Price McConaghy, who has met the Queen and Prince Charles on previous occasions, described the controversy as embarrassing for Rathlin.
“I think it is very embarrassing, to be honest,” he said.
“I would say the National Trust will not take this very well at all — after all they own the property. I can see them being highly displeased.
“This is the first official royal visit to Rathlin and I don’t think it went as well as it should.”
A spokeswoman for the National Trust said the decision not to allow Prince Edward and Sophie into the Manor House was a “matter for the leasee”.
Earlier in the day the royals had visited the Giant’s Causeway where they were greeted by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and the area’s new MP, Ian Paisley jnr.