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Tuesday, 13 June, 2000, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
Prince meets Troubles victims
Prince meets bereaved relatives of soldier Stephen Restorick
Prince Charles meets bereaved relatives
The Prince of Wales has met victims of the Troubles and their families at the end of a two-day visit to Northern Ireland.

Prince Charles was the guest of honour at the Northern Ireland secretary's annual garden party at Hillsborough Castle in County Down, which was held this year in memory of victims.

More than 2,000 guests were invited.

Former victims commissioner Sir Kenneth Broomfield said: "I think this is a gesture, but it is a timely and appropriate gesture and there are a lot of people here who represent what we have been through over the last 30 years."

'Memories'

Lesley Baird, whose son Constable Alan Baird was blown up in landmine attack, said it was a "pleasure to be here".

"It brings back a lot of memories nevertheless.

"We are hoping to get some kind of permanent memorial for people like ourselves that have been through a lot of trauma," he added.

However, the father of Adrian Gallagher who was killed in the Real IRA Omagh bombing in 1998, came with the message that he still wanted to see the government take action to bring his son's killers to justice.

"It is nearly two years on and nobody has been brought to justice for what was the worst mass murder in the Troubles," he said.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and ministers Martin McGuinness and Bairbre de Brun turned down the invitation to the party, which was extended to Northern Ireland's MPs and assembly ministers.

On Monday, Mr Adams said he would not attend because of Prince Charles' role as Colonel in Chief of the Parachute Regiment which shot dead 14 civilians in Londonderry in 1972.

If they had attended it would have been the first meeting between royalty and republicans.

Representatives of all of Northern Ireland's other political parties attended.

Drugs problem

Earlier on Tuesday the Prince of Wales was briefed on the mounting drugs problem in Ballymena, County Antrim, at the local RUC station.

Police officers demonstrated equipment and methods used during raids and told the prince about work in the community to stem the upsurge in the use of drugs such as heroin and ecstasy.

A police sniffer dog welcomed the prince demonstrating its ability to sniff out a half kilo packet of cannabis resin from a car, which it presented to the royal visitor.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson was not so lucky, however, as the dog reacted to him by snarling and barking.

The royal visitor later opened new council offices in Newtownabbey.

He also visited the Belfast headquarters of Business in the Community, the UK charity of which he is President, and Japanese-owned car components factory TK-ECC in nearby Dundonald.

Prince meets new ministers

Prince Charles undertook a series of engagements when he flew into the province on Monday.

He opened a new theatre and visited an agricultural college.

Many of Northern Ireland's politicians, including the first and deputy first ministers, David Trimble and Seamus Mallon greeted him on his arrival.

The prince said he was delighted to be back in Armagh after almost six years.

He then went to the Robinson Library in Armagh city for a private meeting with representatives of the four main churches, before going on to have a tour of Saint Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral.

Cancelled visit

But Democratic Unionist Party assemblyman Gregory Campbell criticised a decision to cancel a visit to the University of Ulster's Magee campus in Londonderry by the prince.

Mr Campbell said he believed it had been cancelled because of fears it would be seen as insensitive in view of the ongoing Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

The inquiry, which is being held at the Guildhall in Derry, is investigating events when British paratroopers opened fire on a civil rights procession in the city's Bogside area in 1972, killing 14 people.

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See also:

10 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Speculation over Royal visit
12 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Queen salutes RUC courage
09 Jun 00 | UK
Protecting the princes
04 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Veterans remember Dunkirk rescue
17 May 00 | Bloody Sunday Inquiry
Saville inquiry timeline
12 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Prince continues NI visit
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