King Charles to visit Northern Ireland and meet with Sinn Fein’s Michelle O'Neill

·2-min read

King Charles will meet Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill during his first visit to Northern Ireland as monarch.

The first minister-designate is expected to offer him her condolences during a reception at Hillsborough Castle, the royal residence in County Down.

The King and the Queen Consort will later attend a service of reflection at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.

On the staunchly loyalist Shankill Road, there is a carpet of flowers beneath a Platinum Jubilee mural of the Queen.

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Stacey Graham, a local community worker, said: "I think the Queen epitomised for me everything it meant to be British.

"But she also knew how important it was to… reach out that hand of friendship."

"We saw that when she met Martin McGuinness. We saw that when she went to the Republic of Ireland and spoke in Irish," she added.

It was during her historic state visit to Ireland in 2011 that the Queen greeted her Dublin audience with the words: "A uachtarain agus a chairde (president and friends)."

Lord Brookeborough, Lord Lieutenant of County Fermanagh and a close friend of the late Queen, said: "That was a game-changer… and it was always something she'd wanted to do."

The new King has already gone further than his mother to heal Anglo-Irish relations, visiting Mullaghmore in County Sligo, where the IRA murdered his great uncle and father-figure Lord Mountbatten.

She shook hands with Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander, he has shaken hands with Gerry Adams, the world's most-recognisable Irish republican.

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Olympic gold medallist, Lady Mary Peters, who remembers the Queen's "warmth, love, friendship and love of Northern Ireland," has high hopes for King Charles.

She said: "He writes a lot of personal letters, which I've had the privilege of reading.

"I think he'll do it differently, but he has had a long-term training from his mother and I think he will do it very well."

She added: "Long live the king."

Lord Brookeborough will not forget his final conversation with the Queen, when he and his wife stayed at Windsor during Royal Ascot earlier this year.

"When we were saying goodbye to her," he recalled, "as we were turning to go, she said: 'I do hope things will be better in Northern Ireland soon'."