The Prince of Wales’s visit to Northern Ireland sends a clear message to dissident republicans that the country wants to move on, the head of Ireland’s Catholics said.
Primate Eamon Martin joined Church of Ireland counterpart Richard Clarke in hosting Charles during a trip to the ecclesiastical capital of Armagh as part of a royal tour straddling both sides of the Irish border.
Last month, renegade group the New IRA shot journalist Lyra McKee dead during disturbances in Londonderry when rioters were attacking police.
On Wednesday, Charles was serenaded with words of welcome and traditional music from schoolchildren as he met groups inside St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral.
Archbishop Martin said: “I think today’s visit lets people know that there are many people in the community, there are many people in this society, who want to move on and who want to continue to build bridges for the future.”
The leader of Ireland’s Catholics has spoken out strongly against dissident republicans who continue to target police more than two decades after the Good Friday Agreement.
The archbishop said: “There are some people here who would drag us back.
“We are trying to model something here, Archbishop Richard and I, and say to people, look, you have permission, we have also just last week been with our political leaders and have given them the same message, that the community wants you to take risks for reconciliation and peace and if you do take difficult steps then we will be behind you.”
Powersharing at Stormont has been suspended for more than two years.
Archbishop Martin said: “Risk is about stepping out and leadership, and every time we have done it people have come with us.
“You may have a few people who disagree but ultimately someone has to lead forward and that is the message that we have been giving to our political leaders, to show leadership, courageous and compassionate leadership for the future.”
The Prince of Wales met pupils at St Patrick’s Grammar School beside the cathedral who are taking part in a programme run by his charity The Prince’s Trust.
The group of pupils have all taken part in the Achieve programme, which is a personal development course for 11 to 19-year-olds.
The programme provides a practical approach to learning and supports young people to build their confidence and fulfil their potential.
Pupil Josh McCausland said: “I love everything about the Achieve programme, you get to go outside and it’s less formal than the other classes.
“I love how welcoming it is and it has helped me interact with other people. It’s the best GCSE choice I made.”
Mark Dougan, Northern Ireland director at The Prince’s Trust, said it was an honour to welcome the organisation’s president.
He added: “We’re incredibly proud of their achievements and of the thousands of young people that The Prince’s Trust has supported throughout Northern Ireland over the past year.
“Through partnering with local schools like St Patrick’s Grammar School, we look forward to helping many more young people to unleash their talent and reach their full potential.”