Royal visit to Ireland: Prince Charles shakes hands with Gerry Adams in public
The Prince of Wales has begun a four-day tour of Ireland, north and south
Prince Charles has publicly shaken hands with Gerry Adams in a brief encounter in front of the TV cameras in the Republic of Ireland.
The two men smiled at each other as they shook hands for several seconds and exchanged words in a packed hall as the prince toured the National University of Ireland Galway in the first engagement of the four-day Royal visit.
Charles agreed to the meeting after a request by the Sinn Fein president - the most recognisable republican figure of the last 50 years. The meeting would have been unthinkable until a few years ago.
Charles' favourite uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten was blown up by the IRA in 1979.
Security was tight around the university as the royal couple arrived.
The Prince was holding a cup and saucer of tea as he cordially greeted Mr Adams, who leaned forward to speak close to the Prince's ear several times. He then introduced the royal to the man standing next to him, before Charles continued down a line of assembled dignitaries.
Mr Adams is the most senior republican to meet the Prince and it comes after his party colleague Martin McGuinness, the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister and former IRA commander, shook hands with Charles at a state banquet in Windsor Castle last year and met the Queen in 2012.
When asked if there would be a handshake today, the Sinn Fein President said: "I presume so, I never buy into not shaking hands."
Mr Adams said the meeting would be a " relatively short engagement" that he hoped would contribute to reconciliation in Belfast as well for the royals, adding: "I don't have any expectations other than this being an engagement which I hope is symbolic and practical, and will assist that entire process."
Meanwhile, a protest was held in Londonderry.
Derry Now reported that around 100 people gathered at the Bloody Sunday monument to object to the "shameful" meeting between Adams and the Prince.
Charles is Colonel-in-Chief of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, which shot 13 civilians dead in 1972.
The Prince, who is joined in Ireland by the Duchess of Cornwall, touched down just before midday on a chartered flight at Shannon Airport in Co Clare, before travelling to Galway city for the first engagement in a packed agenda.
He was congratulated on the birth of his granddaughter Princess Charlotte by Shannon Group Chairman Rose Hynesort.
"He was like any grandfather, very proud. He said ‘that’s so kind; it’s wonderful that it’s a girl’," said Ms Hynes.
“Both Prince Charles and the Duchess seemed very pleased to be here. Prince Charles was, in particular, looking forward to getting a look at the Cliffs of Moher as he flies up to Galway. He thought it would be a wonderful view from the air."
Their Royal Highnesses have arrived at Shannon Airport. Welcome to Ireland. pic.twitter.com/9PbUp58qgv— Dominick Chilcott (@DChilcottFCO) May 19, 2015
Charles is said to be excited by the prospect of his first official visit to the Republic in 13 years, with peace and reconciliation set to be major themes.
Today's meeting comes on the eve of the Prince's emotional walkabout in the seaside village of Mullaghmore, Co Sligo where his great uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA.
The 79-year-old cousin of the Queen was targeted by the IRA as he set off with family and a local teenager to gather lobster pots and fish for shrimp less than 600m from the harbour of the normally-peaceful fishing village.
Lord Mountbatten was murdered along with Lady Doreen Brabourne, the 83-year-old mother-in-law of the earl's daughter, his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull and 14-year-old Paul Maxwell, from Killynure, Enniskillen.
Charles, who is his making first official visit to Ireland in 13 years, will be in Mullaghmore on Wednesday following a service of peace and reconciliation at St Columba's Church, in nearby Drumcliffe.
But the handshake with Mr Adams also chimes with the themes at the prayer gathering and will be seen as the next phase in ever-deepening relations, friendships and bonds between the UK and Ireland.
It was only in 2011 when Sinn Fein took a decision not to allow Mr McGuinness to attend the state banquet in Dublin Castle during the Queen's visit to the Republic.
It will be the royal couple's first official engagement in Ireland but not the first time in the country for either of them as both have visited many times in a personal capacity, including the Prince's trips to the Duke of Devonshire's Lismore Castle in Co Cork.
Charles was last in the Republic on formal business in 2002 and had previously been in the country in 1995.
Belfast Telegraph Digital