Photographs of Prince Andrew — who’s at the centre of a cross-Atlantic sex scandal — have been taken down quickly from the walls of a number of golf clubs in Northern Ireland after the Queen stripped her son of his Royal patronages.
The swift removal of all signs of any connections with the Duke of York by Royal Portrush, Royal Belfast and Royal County Down have been ‘a relief’ according to club sources.
The duke, who has consistently denied all the allegations against him, heard last week that he is facing a courtroom showdown in New York after a judge ruled that a lawsuit brought by the prince’s accuser Virginia Giuffre can go ahead.
She claims she was trafficked to London by the late American millionaire Jeffrey Epstein for sex with the duke when she was only 17. But Prince Andrew said he didn’t remember ever meeting her or having a photograph taken with her with recently convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell smiling in the background.
The day after the New York ruling Buckingham Palace announced the Queen was stripping the duke of his military roles including as Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Irish Regiment; his patronages and his right to use the title HRH. The Queen’s decision to take away his patronages effectively removed the onus from the three local golf clubs to take any formal action themselves.
It’s understood that officials from the clubs have been waiting for the chance to completely distance themselves from their patron, a move they believed they couldn’t take while the duke was still under investigation from legal officials in America.
Clubs here and several in Britain where the prince has also been patron had come under pressure to cut their ties with him especially after Prince Andrew stepped aside in November 2019 from public duties in the wake of what was described as his ‘disastrous’ interview on the BBC’S Newsnight programme about his friendship with Epstein and about the Giuffre allegations.
At Royal Portrush a photograph of the duke used to hang on a wall near the entrance to the clubhouse, but it’s understood that it was moved to another room some time ago.
A plaque that was displayed close to the front door marked the fact that the duke had re-opened the refurbished clubhouse on May 14, 1999. It’s believed the plaque has been removed from the clubhouse.
Royal Portrush aren’t saying anything about the latest developments.
A spokesman for the club who hosted the Open for the first time in 70 years in July 2019 said: “We have no comment whatsoever to make.”
There’s also been no comment from Royal County Down in Newcastle or from Royal Belfast at Craigavad.
By last Friday an internet link to the Royal Belfast website hadn’t been amended to say that Prince Andrew was no longer their patron.
In 2019 the duke visited the Open championship in Portrush but remarkably few photographs of him ever emerged in the press or on social media.
Later, TV presenter Piers Morgan complained that British taxpayers had paid £15,848 for Prince Andrew to fly by private jet to watch the Open and called it a ‘disgusting abuse of our money’.
The prince was back at Royal Portrush in September 2019 when he visited the golf club in his role as founder of the Duke of York Young Champions Trophy.
The duke played the course in the company of the club’s head professional Gary McNeill and he was also photographed alongside the Belfast-based libel lawyer Paul Tweed.