Prince Harry has reached out to the next generation of young people during his first official visit to Northern Ireland.
The Royal Family have a history of working for reconciliation during trips across the Irish Sea and the 32-year-old’s humanity while meeting community groups from nationalist and unionist backgrounds across the island was outstanding, his hosts said.
Co-operation Ireland, which organised Thursday’s meeting, has worked for almost 40 years to build a shared and cohesive society within Northern Ireland and across the Irish border.
The charity’s chief executive, Peter Sheridan, said: “Today was about reaching out to the next generation, to the next generation of the Royal Family, the next generation of young people across this island, whatever background they come from.”
Harry was applauded as he left Belfast’s MAC arts centre where he met community groups working on peace-building and issues like promoting good mental health.
Aodhan Mackin, 16, from Ardoyne, a republican district of north Belfast which has been the scene of bitter conflict over past years and decades, said: “Not many people would think to meet the Prince but we did meet him, so it was good, and he was down to earth.”
Co-Operation Ireland helped arrange the Queen’s first visit to Dublin which was a groundbreaking moment for Anglo-Irish relations.
In 2012 it hosted a historic and highly symbolic handshake between late Sinn Fein deputy first minister and life-long republican Martin McGuinness and the Queen.
Mr Sheridan said Harry’s visit was about building on that legacy.
“Here was an opportunity for young people to say what they think about peace-building, about the issues of today, and you could see the connection between them and Prince Harry, who is a young person himself.
“They sat down and had conversations, all of us have prejudices but to be able to sit down and have conversations about things which are of common interest, be it mental health or how we build peace in this place. I think it went incredibly well.”
He said the humanity of Harry and the young people was outstanding.
Co-Operation Ireland aims to promote dialogue and practical collaboration within Northern Ireland and with the Republic of Ireland.
Harry’s father, the Prince of Wales, has made a series of visits to both parts of the island in an effort to promote reconciliation.
Earlier this year he paid tribute to those who fought for Irish freedom in the 1916 Rising, laying a wreath at a memorial to those who died.