Prince Charles has visited a Catholic Church in Belfast, making it the first time a member of the Royal Family has visited one in Ireland.

He walked through the doors of St. Malachy’s Church in the strongly nationalist area of The Markets to see a $5 million restoration project. A royal visit to such an area would have been impossible just a few years ago.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson, who accompanied him, told the Belfast Telegraph that the attendance of Prince Charles shows “we are now in a new era."

“It’s not my first time in this church, but it’s probably the first time in recent history that we have had a royal in a (Catholic) church here,” he said.

“I think it should send out the indication that respect, understanding and tolerance is growing in Northern Ireland, and that’s a good message.”

Nationalist politician Alasdair McDonnell, the SDLP MP, agreed it was an historic moment.

“I think this is all a sign of the changing times,” he said.

“This church is held dear by a large number of people across this city and the fact that Prince Charles has come to visit is a good thing, a positive sign things have moved on in Belfast.”

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