Northern Ireland

Royal visit to St Malachy's Church is 'historic'

The Prince of Wales met the First Minister during a visit to St Malachy's Church in Belfast on Friday.

Peter Robinson greeted Prince Charles on the doorstep of the building, as he arrived to view a £3.5m restoration project.

Mr Robinson said the royal visit showed Northern Ireland has entered a "new era".

"It is the first time in recent history that we have had a royal in a Roman Catholic Church here," he added.

"So it is a good start. It should send of an indication that respect, understanding and tolerance is growing in Northern Ireland."

St Malachy's was destroyed by a Luftwaffe bomb in 1941, but in 2006 the diocese of Down and Connor embarked on a project to restore its original features.

Image caption The First Minister greeted the Prince of Wales on the doorstep of St Malachy's

Mr Robinson said: "It has been set out very well and has held on to the architecture of the original."

Prince Charles also presided over the first inter-faith meeting of members of the four main churches, organised by the local branch of the Prince's Regeneration Trust.

The Northern Ireland Trustee Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle said: "It's a hugely exciting event.

"Not only does it celebrate the fantastic restoration of St Malachy's Church, but equally it is very significant because we brought together a group of very senior church figures to begin the discussion of unlocking the potential of redundant churches."

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall flew into George Best Belfast City airport on Friday morning for a one-day visit to Northern Ireland.

The Royal couple also visited Palace Barracks in Holywood for a medal presentation.

They met the soldiers of 2nd Battalion Mercian Regiment who are preparing for service in Afghanistan.

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