By Ray O’Hanlon
The process of reconciliation between Irish republicans and British royalty took another significant step forward today when Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams met with Prince Charles at University College Galway.
Charles and his wife Camilla were on the first day of a four day visit to Ireland.
The meeting was overloaded with symbolism as Charles will be visiting Mullaghmore, County Sligo tomorrow.
The village is where his great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979.
Charles had agreed to the meeting with Adams after it had been requested by the Sinn Féin leader, who was in Galway campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in Friday’s referendum in the Republic on mixed marriage.
During the brief meeting, Adams and the Prince of Wales smiled at one another and exchanged words.
Charles, holding a tea cup and saucer, cordially greeted Adams who leaned forward to speak close to the prince's ear several times. Adams then introduced the prince to the man standing next to him, after which Charles continued moving along a line of people waiting to greet him.
Adams is the most senior republican to meet the prince. Martin McGuinness previously met, and shook hands, with Queen Elizabeth.
Said Adams in a statement about the meeting: “Today’s meeting with Prince Charles is a significant symbolic and practical step forward in the process of healing and reconciliation arising from the peace process.
"He and his family were hurt and suffered great loss by the actions of Irish republicans. I am very conscious of this and of the sad loss of the Maxwell family whose son Paul was killed at Mullaghmore, and I thank all involved, including Charles, for their forbearance.
Lord Mountbatten was murdered along with Lady Doreen Brabourne, the 83-year-old mother-in-law of his daughter, his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull, and 14-year-old Paul Maxwell, from Killynur, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.