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Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005, 21:13 GMT
Charles and Camilla in NI visit
Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall
The couple visited Belfast City Hall
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall have left Northern Ireland following a short visit.

It was the first time Camilla had visited NI as the wife of the heir to the throne.

Prince Charles said: "What a real joy it is for both my wife, my darling wife, and I to be here in Belfast just before Christmas."

They were greeted by Lord Mayor Wallace Browne and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Hain at the city hall.

Members of the choir from Strandtown Primary School were performing in the grounds of the city hall, where an international Christmas market is taking place.

It was also marvellous that they found time to visit the market
Lord Mayor Wallace Browne

Inside city hall, the royal couple listened to the choir and had the opportunity to chat to some of its 60 members and the conductor.

Mr Browne said: "It was a very relaxed visit. Prince Charles realises City Hall will be celebrating its centenary next year and he's very interested in architecture.

"It was also marvellous that they found time to visit the market."

Progressive Unionist councillor David Ervine said: "Camilla's been through a hard time, yet she seems to be quite a gracious person.

"It was good to welcome them here and show Belfast off in a good light."

Private meeting

Alban Maginness of the SDLP said he had spoken to Prince Charles about a mutual friend.

"Derek Hill is a good friend of the Prince, who taught him painting, and I was able to tell him he did my portrait when I was lord mayor," he said.

The royal couple later visited the Harbour Commissioners to look at work done by the Prince's Trust. They were greeted by about 160 invited guests.

They had a private meeting with Prince's Trust officials before attending a reception in the Barnett Room.

They then toured an exhibition and met guests and Prince's Trust supporters.

Music was provided by Cat Barter, a 2005 Sound Live graduate.

Prince Charles said the work done by the trust was making a real difference to people's lives.

"From a Northern Ireland perspective 17% of those aged 16 to 25 have no qualifications; there has been a huge increase in truancy and exclusion; and there is a very high rate of suicides among young people, especially since the cessation of the Troubles," he said.

Prince Charles said the challenges were huge, but he had been encouraged by the many success stories in the history of the charity.

On Thursday, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited Northern Ireland.




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