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Prince Andrew joined by Northern Ireland lawyer Tweed at Royal Portrush golf course

The Duke of York at the Royal Portrush Golf Club, Co Antrim
The Duke of York at the Royal Portrush Golf Club, Co Antrim
The Duke of York with solicitor Paul Tweed
The Duke of York riding on a golf buggy
The Duke of York shaking hands with a player after completing a round of golf
The Duke of York with Belfast solicitor Paul Tweed
Joan McBride and her husband George
Scott Cole and his wife Heather
Kenneth MacNeice
Anne Blackwood
Rory Gray
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

Prince Andrew was joined by one of Northern Ireland's leading lawyers yesterday as he visited the home of this year's Open. The Duke of York toured the Royal Portrush Golf Club before taking to the greens of the famously challenging links course.

It was his third public engagement in as many days, which are among his first since the scandal broke over his friendship with paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Andrew was welcomed by officials at Royal Portrush yesterday morning.

Later the prince was accompanied on his tour of the picturesque seaside course by Paul Tweed, a Co Down-born lawyer who specialises in defamation cases and made his name internationally acting for high profile clients including Jennifer Lopez and Andrew's ex-wife Sarah Ferguson.

It has been reported that Mr Tweed is a family friend of the Yorks and is not representing the prince.

Later he played several holes with Gary McNeill, the head professional at Royal Portrush, strolling past other golfers teeing off in the sunshine.

He departed just before 4pm.

Andrew is a patron of the club, and in July he attended The 148th Open Golf Championship.

Yesterday's visit was in his role as founder of The Duke of York Young Champions Trophy, although it was closed to the media.

It comes amid unwelcome headlines surrounding the prince over his friendship with Epstein.

The US billionaire was found hanged in his cell on August 10 in New York while facing fresh charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to traffic minors for sex.

Andrew has been dogged by allegations of impropriety with under-age girls introduced to him by Epstein.

Buckingham Palace has issued strong denials in response to claims from a woman who claimed she was forced to have under-age sex with the duke, branding the claims "false and without any foundation".

Yesterday the people of Portrush were reluctant to talk about it, most dismissing requests for their thoughts with a scowl on their faces.

There was some sympathy for the duke, albeit given anonymously.

One woman walking along the seafront said she hoped that Prince Andrew "got some peace and comfort from the scenery".

"While I was walking along the beach this morning I looked up to the golf course," she said. "And I thought to myself, if I was Prince Andrew I would be absolutely delighted to be able to stand there and stare out to the sea, because he must need it so much."

She said: "I just feel that none of us know what it is like to be a member of the royal family", adding: "I hope he is enjoying the sunshine here."

Along Portrush's Main Street another woman, who did not want to be identified, said that the "press created this scandal" and "time will tell if he did anything wrong or not".

Several other people who did stop said that they weren't "in the slightest bit bothered" by the duke's visit. One woman said: "He wouldn't be one of the royal family that I was particularly interested in."

One man, who also did not want to be identified, said that he hoped the prince drew strength from the north coast scenery.

"It is easy to condemn," he said. "But the fact is that he lives in an unreal world where he is hounded by photographers at every turn.

"So he couldn't have come to a better place than here for a bit of rest and relaxation."

Maybe it was the bracing sea air, but along the promenade, people were more willing to put their names to their words.

Anne Blackwood said she wasn't "really fussed about his visit".

"I really don't think much about him at all because he is rarely in the news," she said.

"Apart from recently. I'm not fussed about him and not at all bothered if he's here or not."

Rory Gray said he wouldn't be rushing to meet the prince.

He added: "I am not too keen on the royals at all.

"I think they are a waste of taxpayers' money.

"I wouldn't be rushing to meet him."

Kenneth MacNeice said that "everyone has their faults" and that he "wouldn't be running him out of town".

"I don't think that he should have got himself caught up in the scandal," he said.

"We all have our faults. But I'll not be going over to meet him."

Scott Cole said his "poor opinion of the prince hadn't changed".

"I wouldn't have had a high opinion of him anyway," he said.

"And what has happened hasn't changed that, nor his image.

"He should be setting an example, not a bad example."

Joan McBride, who was in town with her husband George, said that the prince "didn't really do much in the royal family".

"I wasn't that interested in him coming at all, as he doesn't really do much, as far as I'm concerned, except go on holiday or play golf," she said. "I find Anne and Charles are more the workers. So I'm not at all bothered about him, particular after the scandal, although that is private business. Still, it dampens his visit a bit. I don't think people will be queuing up to see him."

The only queues in the vicinity of the prince yesterday were of photographers and cameramen, lined up along the wall outside Royal Portrush, hoping to get a shot of the duke on the course.

It was Andrew's second visit to Royal Portrush in recent weeks, and not everyone at the club was happy about his visit.

One Royal Portrush member, based in London, told the Times newspaper at the weekend that golfers felt "uneasy" about the duke's visit.

Plans for him to open the new Portrush train station were reportedly shelved.

A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said: "His Royal Highness will undertake a number of engagements related to the tournament, at which there will be 66 sportsmen and women from 35 countries.

"The duke will meet volunteers, supporters and representatives from local businesses, host the tournament dinner, attend the tournament and present prizes."

Belfast Telegraph


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