During a surprise visit to Northern Ireland on Friday, The Prince of Wales spent time with flood-affected communities of Londonderry, following the summer’s high rainfall. But not all were pleased with Prince Charles’ visit, as Derry’s Mayor spoke of the Parachute Regiment’s involvement in Bloody Sunday; the Prince is colonel of the group.
Charles called into Eglinton Community Centre on the outskirts of Derry to meet local residents, a number of whom remain in temporary housing after their homes were hit by a deluge of water in August.
Shortly after his arrival to much cheer the heir to the throne was shown a display of photos taken just after the flooding, showing destruction and ruin in homes and businesses. .
Gladys McElhatton, a local who has been unable to return to her home due to the damage, said: “Prince Charles was so lovely. He came over and shook all our hands.”
Prince Charles has arrived in Derry-Londonderry to meet victims of recent flooding. pic.twitter.com/y5U4w1MT7k
— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) October 20, 2017
“It’s great that he came here. It shows he’s still thinking about us and what happened to us with the flooding.”
This follows on from the future King’s other visits to similarly-affected communities, such as Datchet near Windsor, Cornwall in and the Highlands of Scotland last year.
A local shop owner, Paul Miller, told the media about his and others’ conversation with Charles. The Prince of Wales offered his help to those whose insurance company was dragging its heels.
“We said to the Prince, insurance companies have walked away from us and they seem to be getting away with it. He said he knows just the person to ring and he’ll look into it for us.”
Mr Miller added: “I asked him to come to the pub with us after, for a pint. But I don’t know if he will.”
The Prince also visited the YMCA Londonderry at Drumahoe where he met members of the farming community, volunteers, emergency services and officials assisting with clean-up efforts.
He was charmed by 11 week-old Lyla Hempton who was just three weeks old when the floods destroyed her parent’s poultry farm.
Her mother Nicola Hempton said: “All the chickens were killed and the houses damaged. We are having to rebuild everything. “We are still waiting for insurance. Until then we can’t rebuild.”
She added: “Prince Charles asked about the baby and about what happened with the chickens. It was lovely to meet him. It was very good of him to come.”
Maoliosa McHugh, Sinn Fein Mayor of Londonderry, refused to meet with Prince Charles, because of his associations with the Parachute Regiment. The solider shot 28 unarmed civil rights protesters in the Bogside area of the city on Bloody Sunday in 1972, killing 14 in total, during the Irish Troubles.
Deputy Mayor John Boyle, of the nationalist SDLP, instead met the Prince.
He said it would be ‘premature’ to meet Charles because of ‘unresolved sensitivities’ around Bloody Sunday; prosecutors in Northern Ireland are currently assessing ‘whether to charge 18 former paras in connection with the 1972 incident.
“I recognise the positive contribution made by members of the British Royal Family to the search for reconciliation and the need for greater understanding of the different narratives, which exist here,” McHugh said.
“Today’s visit to Derry by Prince Charles is difficult for many families in the city given his ongoing role as Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment.
“And while I have supported meetings between Sinn Fein and members of the British Royal Family, I believe that meeting him in Derry is premature given the ongoing and unresolved sensitivities around the legacy of the massacre carried out by that regiment.”
Gregory Campbell, the DUP MP for East Londonderry, accused the mayor of “retreating to the comfort of backwoods Republicanism”.
“We hear a great deal from Republicans about respect and criticisms of Unionism for not reaching out to recognise other cultures and traditions.
“It is clear, however, that Maoliosa McHugh does not believe such responsibilities extend to him.”
DUP member Gary Middleton added: “The focus on Prince Charles’ association with the Parachute Regiment is yet more republican double standards. Sinn Fein are the first to criticise anyone who dare bring up the activities of the Provisional IRA in Londonderry or anywhere else.
“Indeed, they regularly lambast anyone who cannot forget their role in a campaign of terrorism which of course included the murder of two Police Officers just before Bloody Sunday.
“It would be very useful to know what the views of other more senior members of Sinn Fein take on this calculated snub. Do the actions of Mr McHugh have the backing and support of his party?”
A second stop for Prince Charles came at the YMCA Londonderry, Drumahoe. Here, he met members of the farming community, volunteers, emergency services and officials assisting with clean-up efforts, which are still ongoing.
Charles, who enjoys fishing, was presented with some fully dressed salmon flies and shrimp patterns as a thank you for his support for the community in Londonderry.
What do you think of the snub? Comment below!