Prince Charles is due to meet Gerry Adams in Galway later today as part of an ongoing campaign to improve relations between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The move is significant because Adams was a senior member of Sinn Fein/IRA when the terrorist group murdered Charles’s favourite uncle in 1979.
Charles is in the Republic to visit the area where Lord Mountbatten was blown up along with other members of his family. Aside from Mountbatten three others were killed in the attack, including Charles’s 14-year-old godson.
The group were targeted because Mountbatten was a senior British military commander in World War II.
Charles has long been a figure of hate among Irish nationalists due to his position as head of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, due to their role in the Bloody Sunday shootings in 1972 in which 13 Roman Catholic civil rights marchers were killed.
Adams said the visit was an opportunity to promote reconciliation and that, while the Parachute Regiment had killed many Irish citizens, Charles “also has been bereaved by the actions of republicans”.
“Thankfully the conflict is over. But there remains unresolved injustices. These must be rectified and a healing process developed,” Adams said in a statement.
In 2012, HM the Queen Elizabeth met Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander and a senior member of Sinn Fein which is officially the group’s political wing. The meeting was seen as a landmark step in rapprochement in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland has been largely peaceful since a 1998 power sharing deal ended three decades of violence between Protestants who want to remain loyal to the British crown and Catholics favouring unification with Ireland.
The IRA ended its 30-year armed campaign against British rule in 1998, but small splinter groups have continued to launch attacks against British targets and security is tight for Charles’s visit.
Lord Mountbatten first persuaded Prince Philip to join the British Royal Navy and anglicise his name from Battenburg to Mountbatten. He also introduced the young Philip to the future Queen Elizabeth, which led to the two marrying.
Additional reporting from Reuters