Kate praised for handling of Northern Ireland heckler — ‘Like a champ’

Kate Middleton confronted by woman in Northern Ireland

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Princess Kate and Prince William embarked on their first trip to Northern Ireland since inheriting the titles of Prince and Princess of Wales last week. The couple visited Carrickfergus, a town north of Belfast, during their whirlwind visit; they shook hands with schoolchildren and other residents who had gathered to greet the royals. Carrickfergus holds a personal connection for the Prince and Princess as, on their wedding day in 2011, Queen Elizabeth II gave the then-newlyweds the titles of Baron and Baroness of Carrickfergus.

However, while the royals’ visit was largely well-received with crowds congregating to welcome the couple, at one point, Kate was challenged by a suspected nationalist protestor. As Kate greeted people outside the gates of Carrickfergus Castle, a woman — who was recording the encounter on her phone — said: “Nice to meet you, but it would be better if it was when you were in your own country,” adding: “Ireland belongs to the Irish.”

Seemingly unphased by the comment, the Princess moved down the crowd continuing to greet and shake hands with well-wishers. Kate has been since been praised for her handling of the encounter, with many noting her ability to remain poised in an “uncomfortable” situation. 

Christina Garibaldi and Christine Ross, royal commentators and hosts of the podcast Royally Us, discussed the interaction on this week’s episode, with Ms Ross saying: “I think a lot of people — myself included — watched that video and thought: ‘Thank God it’s not me, I would not have reacted that well.’” 

Praising, the former Duchess of Cambridge, Ms Garibaldi said: “She handled it like a champ”. 

Ms Ross added: “She did so well! It almost makes you wonder whether she didn’t register what the woman said until she was several people down the line. It’s such a friendly environment — if you’ve ever been on a walkabout — everyone’s really excited and happy to be there.

“It’s just a really happy, upbeat environment so so that comment, I don’t think Kate even registered [it] until she was halfway down the line.” 

According to reports, the rest of the Prince and Princess of Wales’ trip was smooth sailing. Their first stop was the Public Initiative for Prevention of Suicide and Self-Harm (PIPS), where the couple spoke with staff about their work helping people at risk of suicide and self-harm.

They later took part in an art therapy session with a group of vulnerable children who have been supported by the organisation. Lastly, they joined a group of volunteer counsellors in packing up the charity’s Little Boxes of Hope — support packages 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 couple then took a trip to Trademarket (an outdoor food and retail market) in Belfast city centre where they had a “cocktail-making race”. The newly established enterprise transformed a previously vacant site with the hopes of showcasing new businesses while also increasing footfall in a less-visited area.

Their final engagement was in the town of Carrickfergus, where they visited youth charity Carrick Connect which offers support services to young people experiencing social or emotional difficulties. 

Following their visit, the couple posed a video from their trip on their social media profiles. Accompanying the montage-style clip was the caption: “Thank you for having us, Northern Ireland!”

Kate and William have not commented publicly on the protestor’s remarks. 

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Ms Ross pointed out that “the relationship between Ireland and England has been intense over the last 100 years,” but added: “I think overall, Northern Ireland is happy to be a part of the United Kingdom, but obviously, there are plenty of people who feel like the situation could be better.” 

A video of Kate’s encounter circulated on social media, where the Princess received further praise for her “graceful” handling of the heckler. 

One Twitter user commented: “Catherine handled the situation very gracefully though.”

Another wrote: “And the Princess of Wales handled it with grace and dignity. As always. Moving on.” 

However, other Twitter users did not feel the same way, with one commenting: “This isn’t ‘handling’ it’s ignoring”, and another saying the woman had “every right to heckle Kate!” 

The royals have previously addressed the unrest between England and Ireland. In 2011, the late Queen Elizabeth II said: “It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss. 

“With the benefit of historical hindsight, we can all see things which we wish had been done differently, or not at all.

“To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past, I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy.”

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