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The Sussexes

Why is Prince Harry’s Irish title so controversial?


Photo Copyright: Charlie Proctor / Royal Central

Prince Harry is best known as the Duke of Sussex – a title granted to him by The Queen in May 2018 upon his marriage to Meghan Markle. A lesser known title also bestowed upon him was Baron Kilkeel – a subsidiary peerage which the prince can use when he visits Northern Ireland.

However, when it was announced that Harry would become the Baron Kilkeel, it caused controversy on the island of Ireland between Unionists and Irish Republicans.

Kilkeel is a small town and seaport located on the coast of County Down. The main industry in the parish is fishing, supported by Northern Ireland’s largest fishing fleet. Kilkeel’s history dates back to the tribes of McMahon. Colla Nais, who was King of Ireland from 323-326 A.D, ruled over his people until eventually the British seized possession of the lands.

With a large Unionist heritage, it was recorded in 2001 that five wards in and around Kilkeel represented a dedication to both Catholic and Protestant values. Kilkeel Central was recorded as 69% Protestant, while Kilkeel South was 55% Catholic. Current demographics show Northern Ireland is of a Catholic majority.

To some, Prince Harry’s claim to Kilkeel is an insult to the Irish, making his new title quite polarising. As Harry has never spent any time in Kilkeel and has been given landlord rights over land that has been there for centuries, some Irish Catholics oppose the peerage.

However, both The Queen and Charles and Camilla have visited Kilkeel. It is unknown whether Prince Harry will ever make the journey now he is no longer a working royal.

Despite some taking insult to Prince Harry’s new title, many others in Northern Ireland are supportive. Democratic Unionist Party MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, said on Twitter at the time: “Thrilled that Prince Harry is to become Baron Kilkeel on his wedding day. The folk in my native Mourne will be over the moon. A truly historic day for Kilkeel.”