High Profile Lunches Hit Controversy

VIP dining arrangements on both sides of the border have been in sharp focus after Dr Ian Paisley and his wife were given a warm welcome in Dublin last week.

President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin hosted the couple for a lunch at her official residence, Aras an Uachtarain.

But, the DUP founder's visit on Friday has since been denounced by hard-line TUV party leader Jim Allister.

He claimed the trip showed how far the DUP had "departed from its root and principles" and said that "such fraternisation with Dublin was once anathema".

He also denounced their meeting with Taoiseach Brian Cowen - who presented Dr Paisley with a book about Leinster House and gave Eileen Paisley a silver Tara brooch.

Meanwhile, yesterday, a right-royal row erupted on the North's only inhabited island.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex were forced to dine at a pub when their lunch at a Rathlin Island hotel was suddenly cancelled.

The row hit the scenic island of Rathlin when the royal couple's two-day tour of the North saw them ready to have lunch at the island's only hotel, the 18th century Manor House - only to have this changed at the last minute.

Despite reports, the owner Damien McFaul, who leases the property from the National Trust, denied to the BBC and to the Belfast News Letter that the royals were not welcome there yesterday.

He said he had cancelled the lunch due to a lack of information about security arrangements and who was coming.

Mr McFaul, who runs the establishment with his American partner Ksenia Zywczuk, also said he was concerned about his guests' privacy.

Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie eventually dined in a pebble-dashed pub - that is the only bar on Rathlin Island - and is know to serve no-fuss snacks in its adjoining no-frills cafe, Bruce's Kitchen (named after another royal figure, Robert the Bruce, who is supposed to have hidden out on the island).

It is co-owned by a businessman who used to run a '£1 shop' in Ballycastle, Peter McCurdy who said: "We provide meals for everybody."

The royal pair later took the ferry back to Ballycastle before being driven in convoy back to Belfast.

They were spotted sweeping along the M2 in black Range Rovers with PSNI motorcycle outriders - both giving close coverage and closing road junctions ahead - as the couple sped on to George Best Belfast City Airport at around 6pm.

See: Prince Takes Giant Steps

See: www.brucerathlin1307.com/


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