UK & World News

  • 24 June 2014, 13:12

Former Inmates Show Queen Around 'The Crum'

The Queen has been shown around Belfast's Crumlin Road Gaol by tour guides with first-hand experience - Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness had both previously been detained at the former prison, known locally as the Crum.

They now share power in devolved government and accompanied Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh on a tour of C wing.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Mr Robinson was locked up four times during the 1980s for protesting against the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Sinn Fein's Mr McGuinness was remanded there for six weeks in 1976 when accused of IRA membership.

Among the cells the Royal couple passed in C wing was the room where condemned prisoners were hanged.

In 1996, the Governor emerged through the air-locked doors and slammed the gates shut for the last time.

Since then, the Victorian penal architecture has been restored.

The 19th century building is now a popular visitor attraction and is symbolic of Northern Ireland's journey toward peace.

Among the people the Queen was introduced to was lottery millionaire from Belfast, Peter Lavery, who is turning A wing into a boutique whiskey distillery.

The Crum evokes memories of conflict, daring escape and in the case of 17 prisoners, execution.

Some 25,000 people were imprisoned there, many interned without trial, during the jail's 160-year history.

Former inmates include Eamon de Valera, one of the leaders of Ireland's fight for independence, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and the prominent Unionist, Reverend Ian Paisley.

During their visit to Belfast, the royal couple also toured the set of the television drama Game of Thrones in the Titanic Quarter.

They met members of the cast and production crew, and viewed costumes and props used in the hugely successful first four series.

Other engagements include a trip to St George's Market, a civic lunch in Belfast City Hall and a garden party at Hillsborough Castle.

On Wednesday, the Queen will honour First World War soldiers from Northern Ireland and the Republic during an act of remembrance in Coleraine, County Londonderry.

It is Her Majesty's 21st visit to Northern Ireland, but never before have so many details been released in advance.

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