Health and well-being formed the focus of a one-day visit to the Province by the Princess Royal yesterday.
Princess Anne’s trip began shortly before 11am when she and her entourage arrived in a fleet of Range Rovers at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown, and were greeted by a welcome party including DUP MP Sammy Wilson.
There was a large police presence inside the Newtownabbey-based campus, while dozens of students, including one dressed in a huge Pudsey Bear costume, stared down from the balcony above.
She was visiting because she is patron of the College of Occupational Therapists, and this year marks 40 years since the university’s occupational therapy department opened.
In the main hall were a number of exhibits, and one of the stands the Princess visited boasted some outlandish headgear with brainwave sensors embedded in it.
The idea was that it would allow someone who was immobile to turn appliances on or access the internet using mindpower alone, according to Jean Daly from charity The Cedar Foundation.
After meeting the Princess, she said: “Princess Anne was so interested in the project.
“It’s just a wonderful experience; a great thing to be here and showcase the kind of innovations that are happening.”
University pro-vice-chancellor Professor Alastair Adair said she had been on a visit in 2009 when they had opened their new sports centre.
She had exuded “charm, interest and empathy” yesterday, he said – and though the university will largely shut its Jordanstown campus and shift operations to central Belfast in the coming years, he hoped it was not the last time the Princess would be paying a visit there.
She was accompanied by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, and afterwards went on to visit another health-related facility – the Lagan Valley Midwifery Led Unit in Lisburn.
Among those she met were representatives of the Royal College of Midwives, and one family who had recently used the facilities.
Before leaving for her next engagement, Her Royal Highness unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit, before two-year-old Karen Cooper, the first baby delivered in the unit, presented her with a posy.