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Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 18:20 GMT
Princess Margaret and Northern Ireland
Princess Margaret launched the Edinburgh Castle in Belfast in 1947
Princess Margaret launched the Edinburgh Castle in Belfast in 1947
BBC News Online looks back on Princess Margaret's visits to Northern Ireland.

Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, died "peacefully in her sleep" early on Saturday morning at the age of 71 after suffering a stroke.

She had suffered at least two prevous strokes and was plagued by illness in her last years.

Before she became ill, Princess Margaret's nine visits to Northern Ireland between 1947 and 1996 were prompted often by the province's manufacturing achievements in her early years and later reflected her interest in charity work.

She last visited Northern Ireland in 1996.

The Belfast Telegraph chronicled Princess Margaret's 1996 visit
The Belfast Telegraph chronicled Princess Margaret's 1996 visit

As president of the children's charity the NSPCC, that year she performed the official opening of Ballymena children's centre in the County Antrim town.

The centre was a partnership project between the NSPCC and Homefirst Community Trust.

She also attended a reception for NSPCC supporters, staff and fundraisers at Hillsborough Castle in County Down.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph Newspaper after the visit, president of the County Armagh branch of the NSPCC Bertie Sheilds said: "It was a real boost to morale to have her here. She was really lovely."

Patricia McGoldrick of the Shankill NSPCC centre said: "She was genuinely interested in what we are doing here which is wonderful. She is very in touch with our work.

"The princess told me how someone had once described child abuse as normal because there seems to be so much publicity and how she immediately took a step back and said: How can child abuse ever be normal?"

Cancer research

In October 1995 Princess Margaret officially opened the UK's first unit dedicated to ovarian cancer research at Belfast City Hospital.

Aged 65 at the time, the princess who had been a heavy smoker, had had part of one of her lungs removed after a cancer scare.

The cancer centre was a joint collaboration between Queen's University Belfast and the hospital and it had been funded by the Cancer Research Campaign, following the discovery by a Belfast-based team of a link between ovarian cancer and chromosome genes.

Northern Ireland is home to Harland and Wolff, which, at the beginning of the 20th century was a world-class and prolific ship builder.

Ships launched

Launching the Union Castle liner Edinburgh Castle in Belfast in 1947 was one of the first official duties Princess Margaret carried out when she came of age.

In 1948 she was back to launch the oil tanker British Mariner. She returned ten years later in 1958.

The next year Princess Margaret launched the Amazon, a passenger cargo vessel for the Royal Mail Lines.

In 1960 Princess Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones, the Earl of Snowdon.

She visited Northern Ireland with her husband in June 1963 and again in May 1967.

Because of the Northern Ireland Troubles there were no further Royal visits to the province until 1977.


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09 Feb 02 | UK
09 Feb 02 | UK
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