Charles visits high-tech cyber security facility in Belfast

Prince Charles meets staff at Queen's University's cyber security unit at the Science Park in Belfast's Titanic Quarter. 'Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Prince Charles meets staff at Queen's University's cyber security unit at the Science Park in Belfast's Titanic Quarter. 'Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

The Prince of Wales was given a glimpse into the high-tech world of internet security during a visit to Northern Ireland.

Charles officially opened Queen’s University’s first Global Research Institute at the Science Park in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter at lunchtime on Monday during the first engagement of his three-day visit which also takes in the Irish Republic.

The Prince of Wales shakes hands with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster as he arrives at the Northern Ireland Science Park at Queen's University Belfast, where he officially launched the University's first Global Research Institute.  Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Prince of Wales shakes hands with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster as he arrives at the Northern Ireland Science Park at Queen's University Belfast, where he officially launched the University's first Global Research Institute. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The prince was met on arrival by dignitaries including the DUP politicians Guy Spence (deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast), Gavin Robinson (local MP) and Arlene Foster (First Minister).

During a tour of the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) the heir to the throne was shown computer systems which prevent hackers from accessing water and electricity supplies as well as cutting-edge software which can stop cloning.

He also watched a demonstration on the new weather satellite technology the centre is researching.

During the hour-long tour Charles also took time out to speak with research students and staff.

Jing Sua, 25 from south China, who is studying for a PhD in energy harvesting, said they shared a joke.

“He had a joke with me about my English being very good,” he said. “He was really friendly. It was nice that he shook my hand.”

Umar Minhas, 27, from Pakistan, a part-time PhD student, said Charles was keen to find out more about his work.

“We didn’t know who was coming until this morning,” said Mr Minhas.

“We saw the security and so we were expecting some high-profile person but it was a great experience to see the Prince.

“We have seen him on the TV and it was good to personally talk to him.”

Among the other people Prince Charles talked to were Fahad Siddiqui, 30, from Karachi in Pakistan, a researcher in high performance computing animation processing.

He said that the Prince was “really friendly” and asked him about how he liked working here and about the research he is working on.

“It was a pleasure to meet him actually.”

Queen’s vice-chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston said it was a very significant visit.

He said: “This centre is working on the digital society of the future protecting us from cyber security attacks but also about how we develop technologies which we will use as human beings and societies going forward - in health, banking, engineering and indeed in communication.

“It is great to have that recognition from Prince Charles of the importance of the work that we do here.”

Clarence House said Charles was keen to learn more about the centre’s work after presenting them with a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education earlier this year.

Professor John McCanny, ECIT director, said Charles seemed impressed.

He said: “I think he was fascinated by what he saw - both the spectrum of the research but also the diversity of the people we have working there coming from all parts of the world. He engaged with them very, very strongly so that was very positive.”

On Tuesday, Charles will be joined by the Duchess of Cornwall and the royal couple will travel across the border to Co Donegal on Wednesday.

The visit to Ireland is at the request of the Government and follows Charles and Camilla’s trip to the country this time last year when the Prince toured the place where his great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was murdered by the IRA in 1979.

A Clarence House spokesman said: “The visits will recognise the warm friendship that exists between both countries, promoting understanding of their respective heritage and celebrating the best that each has to offer.”

During their visit to Northern Ireland the royal couple will visit a number of successful local businesses, some of which work in the food and drink sector, as 2016 is the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink.

Earlier this month Charles attended an event at Fortnum and Mason in London to promote food and produce from Northern Ireland, as part of his work supporting the sector.

The royal couple will also host a musical evening at Hillsborough Castle which will feature an eclectic programme, with performances from the DIT Harp Ensemble from the Dublin Conservatory of Music & Drama, the Belfast Opera, the “Folk & Trad” group of the Royal Irish Regiment and an appearance by comedian Tim McGarry.

During his visit to Ireland in May last year Charles made an emotional trip to Mullaghmore in Co Sligo - the picturesque fishing village where his beloved Lord Mountbatten and three others were murdered.

At the time he described Mountbatten as the “’grandfather I never had’’ and said the murders had given him a deep understanding of the pain suffered by victims of the 30-year Northern Ireland conflict.

On Wednesday the royal couple will visit Donegal Town in the Irish Republic, and celebrate the area’s heritage by visiting Magee’s - a local company which has been producing tweed for 150 years.

At the Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Charles will meet local entrepreneurs and learn more about the institute’s cross-border programmes, while Camilla will visit a local school.

Finally, at Glenveagh Castle the couple will tour the gardens and meet children who have been learning about some of the conservation work which takes place in Glenveagh National Park.