Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Adams' historic meeting with Prince Charles marks milestone on the path to peace

Editor's Viewpoint

The meeting between Prince Charles, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness in Galway today marks another remarkable step on the road towards a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. It is the first time republicans have met with a member of the royal family in the Republic, signalling that yet another historic barrier has been breached.

It is all the more remarkable because the impetus for the meeting - the first between Gerry Adams and a member of the royal family - came from the Queen. She shook hands with Mr McGuinness in Belfast in 2012, but that was partly protocol as he was acting as Deputy First Minister.

The meeting with Mr Adams is different. It is a continuation through Prince Charles of the bridge-building that the Queen began during her historic visit to Dublin in 2011, especially when she laid a wreath in memory of those who had fought against British rule in Ireland.

Not unnaturally, the other main political parties in the Republic were opposed to today's meeting.

Their biggest fear is that Sinn Fein's progress reaches the point where the party holds all the aces in any future election.

The prominence attached to today's meeting may well give a further boost to Sinn Fein's popularity and that of its leader.

But there are others who are opposed to the meeting. A relative of one of those killed on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry said Sinn Fein should not meet Prince Charles because he is Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment, which shot 13 civilians dead on that day.

Equally, Prince Charles can point out that he is meeting republicans near where his great-uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten was one of four people killed by an IRA bomb in 1979. There are victims on all sides in the Troubles and it is right that the pain of their relatives continues to be felt and acknowledged.

Yet we must be glad that the Troubles are largely consigned to the past, even if the legacy remains.

It is much better to be where we are today as regards a normal society than where we once were - in an horrific cycle of seemingly endless violence.

Old attitudes must change and the sight of republicans meeting Prince Charles, while it may offend many victims of the Troubles for differing reasons, should be welcomed as a sign of progress.

But this must not be just a propaganda exercise by Sinn Fein to gain further legitimacy, but rather a signal that the party is sincerely intent on creating a new inclusive society and that equality is not, as Mr Adams put it, a Trojan horse to further republican political ambitions.

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