Prince William calls for harmony between divided communities on Belfast visit

Prince William tonight paid tribute to one of Northern Ireland’s sporting greats – while promoting harmony between divided communities.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the iconic Empire Hall in Belfast to celebrate inspirational young people who are making a difference in Northern Ireland.

They were greeted by former Olympian Dame Mary Peters , who was earlier today appointed to the Order of the Garter, as well as a number of young people from her trust organisation, which helps aspiring athletes and disabled youngsters hoping to break into sport.

Dame Mary, a Northern Ireland sporting great, won gold in the pentathlon at the 1972 Olympics and founded sports charity the Mary Peters Trust.

She will become a Lady Companion of the Order – the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry.

Paying tribute to her, William broke away from his speech to look for her in the crowd, spotting her hiding away in the back of the converted church that hosts music events.

William said: "Where are you Mary, there you are, hiding in the back.

“Mary Peters is not only one of the United Kingdom’s sporting legends….Mary where are you? Where’s Mary gone? You’re at the back Mary.

"Mary has also inspired generation after generation to come together in times of trouble and work for the common good – a lesson I hope many of us can learn from.

“So it was fitting today that Her Majesty The Queen has appointed Mary to be a Lady Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter – one of the UK’s highest honours.”

Kate and William then broke away to take part in a pint pulling contest – with the crowd cheering both of the royals in a tightly contested competition.

Stephen Bradley, manager or the Empire said: "William’s pint was absolutely perfect.

"I joked with him we’ve got a few application forms behind the bar so if he ever wants to drop me a line we’ve got a vacancy and Kate’s was a pretty decent too.

"We are overwhelmed by them coming here, it’s great for us,for the area, for the young people they were here to celebrate and it’s been a great buzz around the place."

At the end of the evening, Dame Mary said of the royal couple: "They are both a credit to the country and so interested in bridging the gap between background, disability and access to sport and the effects that can have on well being.

"The Duke and Duchess both said we need more schemed to help young people achieve their potential, no matter what their background and that is something we can certainly get behind.

"Belfast and the whole country will benefit greatly from them coming here and raising the profile of our projects and we thank them for that."

Kate, wearing a stunning Missoni gown, spent around half an hour with William talking to different groups of young people brought to celebrate their achievements in the world of sport and education.

Tara Anson-Cartright, vice president of the charitable arm of Queen’s University Belfast, said the Duchess told her about how much she had enjoyed meeting people and getting involved in a host of activities during the day.

She said: "Kate said ‘everyone has been so friendly and we had the most amazing day. It’s clear a lot is being done to help young people in this country and that’s a great thing all round’."

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