Woman tells Kate Middleton ‘Ireland belongs to the Irish’ during Belfast walkabout

Woman tells Kate Middleton ‘Ireland belongs to the Irish’ during Belfast walkabout

Kate Middleton was challenged by a woman, wearing a green coat and black and white scarf, as she shook hands on a visit to north Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Kate Middleton has been challenged by a woman in Northern Ireland who suggested she was not visiting her own country.

The exchange unfolded when Prince William and Kate were undertaking an impromptu meet and greet with people in north Belfast.

The couple, who were on a one day visit to Northern Ireland, were shaking hands with the public on the city’s Antrim Road after visiting a suicide prevention charity.

The Princess of Wales speaks to a volunteer during a visit to the PIPS charity in north Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

The woman reached out and shook Kate’s hand and while doing so said: “Nice to meet you but it would be better if it was when you were in your own country.”

The woman, who appeared to be videoing the exchange on a mobile phone, added: “Ireland belongs to the Irish”.

Kate smiled at the woman before moving on to shake hands with a well-wisher.

The encounter happened in what is a predominantly nationalist area of Belfast.

Prince William and his wife received an otherwise warm reception as they were greeted by other members of the public who gathered outside the Public Initiative for Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm (PIPS) charity.

The encounter also jarred with the welcome the royal couple were afforded on the rest of their trip to Northern Ireland.

The PIPS charity was their first stop of the day, with Lord mayor of Belfast Tina Black and Sinn Féin MP for the constituency John Finucane among those who welcomed the royal couple on arrival.

The Prince and Princess of Wales tasting drinks after a cocktail-making competition during a visit to Trademarket in Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

Inside, 12-year-old Elyse Quinn, the daughter of the charity’s executive director Renee Quinn, presented the princess with a bouquet of flowers.

PIPS was founded in 2003 following the loss of 14 young people to suicide in Belfast over a short period of time the previous year.

During their visit, Prince William and Kate spoke with staff about their work helping people at risk of suicide and self-harm.

The charity also arranged for them to take part in an art therapy session, painting pumpkins, with some vulnerable children who have been supported by PIPS.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisation has seen a significant rise in those reaching out for help, including an increase of more than 500% among young people.

At the close of their visit, the prince and princess joined a group of volunteer counsellors in packing up the charity’s Little Boxes of Hope. The support packages are given to children following their time with PIPS to assist their ongoing recovery and ensure that their parents and guardians feel better equipped to cope.

The Prince and Princess of Wales meeting the Vice Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim, Miranda Gordon, as they arrive for a visit to Carrick Connect (Liam McBurney/PA)

After the visit to PIPS, the couple travelled into Belfast city centre to view Trademarket, a new outdoor street-food and retail market where they took part in a spirited cocktail-making race.

After Prince William was declared winner, the couple heard more about the Trademarket enterprise which transformed a previously vacant site, aiming to showcase new businesses while also increasing footfall in a less-visited area.

They also met with representatives from Kainos, a Belfast-based software company which provided the site for the market at a peppercorn rent.

The final visit of the day was to the town of Carrickfergus in Co Antrim.

The royal couple were greeted by cheering crowds who had lined the streets as they arrived to visit youth charity Carrick Connect which offers support services to local young people experiencing social or emotional difficulties.

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