Charles pledges to follow queen’s ‘shining example’ in Northern Ireland
(Update 3: adds statements, re-ledes, changes headline)
London/Dublin, Sep 13 (EFE).- King Charles III said Tuesday he would look to follow the “shining example” set by his mother Queen Elizabeth II in her efforts at reconciling with Irish nationalist republicans in Northern Ireland during her reign.
Charles, who was accompanied by the Queen Consort Camilla, was visiting Northern Ireland for the first time since he became monarch following the queen’s death last week.
The King’s visit comes amid a tense political climate, both between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland over Brexit, and in Northern Ireland itself, where Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein for the first time became Northern Ireland’s largest party in this year’s elections. The republican group has been unable to reach a power-sharing agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to govern due to a dispute over the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol.
During his visit, Charles had an audience at Hillsborough Castle outside Belfast with Northern Ireland’s political leaders, including Sinn Féin’s deputy-leader Michelle O’Neill, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson and Alex Maskey, the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly and member of Sinn Fein.
“In the years since she began her long life of public service, my mother saw Northern Ireland pass through momentous and historic changes,” Charles said.
“Through all those years she never ceased to pray for the best of times for this place and its people, whose stories she knew, whose sorrows our family had felt, and for whom she had a great affection and regard.
“Now with that shining example before me, and with God’s help, I take up my new duties, resolved to seek the welfare of all the inhabitants of Northern Ireland,” he added.
Maskey, a twice-imprisoned former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army which for decades fought to end British rule in Northern Ireland and sought reunification with the Republic of Ireland, said: “As we remember Queen Elizabeth’s positive leadership, let us all reflect that such leadership is still needed, and let us be honest with ourselves enough to recognize that too often that leadership has been lacking when it has been most required,” in a thinly-veiled reference to the ongoing political stalemate.
“I want to acknowledge that your own words and actions over the years have already shown that you are seized of the importance of reconciliation and are committed to playing your full part in that,” Maskey added.
The King and Queen Consort then attended an afternoon service at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast in memory of Queen Elizabeth II, which was attended by the UK’s prime minister, Liz Truss, her Republic of Ireland counterpart Micheál Martin, and Irish president Michael D. Higgins.
Earlier on Tuesday, thousands of soldiers in uniform participated in a military rehearsal of the procession of Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin to Westminster Hall in central London.
Troops were ordered to march along Queen’s Gardens, The Mall, Horse Guards and Horse Guards Arch, Whitehall, Parliament Street, Parliament Square and New Palace Yard. A black coffin was used as part of the rehearsal.
The procession will take place on Wednesday when the late queen’s coffin will be carried from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, where Elizabeth II will lie in state for four days. King Charles and members of the royal family will walk behind the cortege.
Later in the day, the late monarch’s coffin will be flown from St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, where it has been since Sunday, to London on a British Air Force plane.
A state funeral will be held on September 19 for the queen, who died at Balmoral Castle on Thursday at the age of 96. EFE