By Sean Ryan - 10 January, 2016
The Prince of Wales has donated £2,000 to a Catholic church in Belfast which has been at the centre of bitter marching disputes involving Protestant loyal orders in Northern Ireland.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall toured the historic Belfast place of worship in May 2015 in a gesture of reconciliation and as part of the Church’s 200th anniversary celebrations.
St Patrick’s Church on Donegall Street near Belfast city centre has witnessed disorder in recent years, with some parading loyalist bandsmen accused of provocative and sectarian behaviour while passing by.
The most notable flash point occurred in 2012 when 13 members of one loyalist band were convicted of playing a sectarian tune while marching in a circle outside the church.
The convictions were subsequently overturned on appeal, although the bandsmen were bound over to keep the peace.
St Patrick’s priest, Fr Michael Sheehan, said the parish was fundraising to repair the church’s disintegrating stonework.
He told the BBC, “One of the challenges which the parish faces is raising much needed funds to restore the church’s disintegrating stonework. The present church is an imposing edifice, rendered in sandstone and in the Romanesque style. Regrettably, its future is in jeopardy as its facade is worn and crumbling and in need of major repair.”
“The first phase of works is estimated to cost in the region of £1.5m, with total works likely to exceed a colossal £5m.”
Fr Sheehan said the church had been encouraged in their fundraising efforts by incredibly generous benefactions.
He added that St Patrick’s wanted to “recapture the energy, enthusiasm and dedication” of those who built the church and secure the building’s future.
Speaking about the fundraising efforts Fr Sheehan said, “The priests and people of St Patrick’s have been encouraged in their fundraising efforts by incredibly generous benefactions. These have come from a variety of private donors and charitable bodies.”
He added, “Early this autumn, the parish received a gift of £2,000 from HRH the Prince of Wales, who earlier this year paid an historic visit to St Patrick’s.”
St Patrick’s Church expects renovation work to commence on its spire over the coming weeks.