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

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 19/05/2015

The body of Lord Mountbatten is brought ashore
The body of Lord Mountbatten is brought ashore
Paul Maxwell with his sister Lisa, who was murdered with Lord Louis Mountbatten by an IRA bomb while sailing near his holiday home in County Sligo, Ireland, on 27th August, 1979
Timothy Knatchbull is taken into an ambulance after the IRA bomb attack in 1979 which killed his uncle Lord Mountbatten
Police frogmen at the scene of the murders of Lord Mountbatten and others in 1979
Paul was killed aged 15 in the IRA blast which claimed the life of Earl Mountbatten in 1979
In this file photo taken in August 1947 and released by Indian Ministry of Defense, Indian last Governor General Lord Mountbatten salutes the Indian national flag hosted at India Gate as Lady Edwina, second right, and India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru,right, looks on, during independence day celebrations, in New Delhi, India, August 1947.
1977 at a polo match at Windsor; Prince Charles, and Lord Mountbatten with Prince Philip
File photo dated 20/11/1947 Princess Elizabeth, now Queen, and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh with their eight bridesmaids in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace, on their wedding day. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Lady Edwina Mountbatten (1901 - 1960) with Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 - 1964) at a reception given for him by the Indian High Commissioner in London at Kensington Palace Gardens, 11th February 1955. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Lord Mountbatten
Earl Mountbatten Funeral
1977 at a polo match at Windsor; Prince Charles (L), and Lord Mountbatten (C), with Prince Philip (R).
Noel Coward(left) with Earl Mountbatten of Burma.
Library filer dated 16/07/1959 of Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was a key figure in the partition of India and Pakistan.
Library filer from 1965 of Earl Mountbatten of Burma. The Irish Government rejected an offer from Lord Mountbatten for the free use of his castle in County Sligo, according to newly-released files. The former Earl of Burma, who was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979, had inherited Classiebawn Castle after the death of his wife. He wrote to the Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave in March 1975 to offer the castle to the state as a gesture to cement his family's close connection with Ireland.
Paul Maxwell in the last ever picture taken of him who was murdered with Lord Louis Mountbatten by an IRA bomb while sailing near his holiday home in County Sligo, Ireland, on 27th August, 1979
Lord Mountbatten:Murdered by the IRA
11th May 1937: Lord Louis Mountbatten chats to a spectator at a polo match at Hurlingham. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
14th March 1956: Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 - 1964) and Dr Radhakrishnan (1888 - 1975) welcoming Viscount Louis Mountbatten (1900 - 1979) and his wife to India at New Delhi Airport. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Lord Mountbatten in navy uniform 1965
Queen Elizabeth II, right, and her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, centre with back to camera, are greeted on their arrival at London Airort, on Feb. 7, 1952. The royal couple cut short their official trip to Kenya and returned home following the death of King George VI. Prince Philip is talking to Earl Mountbatten of Burma, left. (AP Photo)...A
PACEMAKER PRESS INTL BELFAST 26/8/09. Mary Hornsey 'The Mother of Paul Maxwell, who was murdered with Lord Louis Mountbatten by an IRA bomb while sailing near his holiday home in County Sligo, Ireland, on 27th August, 1979
Royal visit to Ireland...Classiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore Co Sligo which used to be owned by Lord Mountbatten as the town is to be visited by the Prince Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall later this month.
Mullaghmore Bay, Co Sligo, near the site where the Prince of Wales's great uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA

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.

PACEMAKER PRESS INTL BELFAST 26/8/09. A Collect of Paul Maxwell with his sister Lisa , who was murdered with Lord Louis Mountbatten by an IRA bomb while sailing near his holiday home in County Sligo, Ireland, on 27th August, 1979
PACEMAKER PRESS INTL BELFAST 26/8/09. A Collect of Paul Maxwell with his sister Lisa , who was murdered with Lord Louis Mountbatten by an IRA bomb while sailing near his holiday home in County Sligo, Ireland, on 27th August, 1979
The body is brought ashore
Timothy Knatchbull is taken into an ambulance after the IRA bomb attack in 1979 which killed his uncle Lord Mountbatten
Police frogmen at the scene of the murders of Lord Mountbatten and others in 1979
Paul was killed aged 15 in the IRA blast which claimed the life of Earl Mountbatten in 1979
In this file photo taken in August 1947 and released by Indian Ministry of Defense, Indian last Governor General Lord Mountbatten salutes the Indian national flag hosted at India Gate as Lady Edwina, second right, and India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru,right, looks on, during independence day celebrations, in New Delhi, India, August 1947. Sixty years ago this month, India and Pakistan won their Independence, now Pakistan, no stranger to domestic turmoil, is embroiled in an increasingly violent struggle between Islamic extremists and moderates, where as India is racing to become an economic powerhouse, lightning growth has transformed the country and fueled a consumer boom. (AP Photo/Indian Ministry of Defense, HO, File)
1977 at a polo match at Windsor; Prince Charles, and Lord Mountbatten with Prince Philip
File photo dated 20/11/1947 Princess Elizabeth, now Queen, and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, now the Duke of Edinburgh with their eight bridesmaids in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace, on their wedding day. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Lady Edwina Mountbatten (1901 - 1960) with Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 - 1964) at a reception given for him by the Indian High Commissioner in London at Kensington Palace Gardens, 11th February 1955. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Lord Mountbatten
MSI Earl Mountbatten Funeral
Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh...RCO 244-43 (23327-02) Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh Obligatory Credit - CAMERA PRESS/ Arthur Edwards Pictured in 1977 at a polo match at Windsor; Prince Charles (L), and Lord Mountbatten (C), with Prince Philip (R).
Noel Coward(left) with Earl Mountbatten of Burma.
Library filer dated 16/07/1959 of Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was a key figure in the partition of India and Pakistan. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 29, 2006. Uncle Dickie, as he was affectionately known by the royals, was the last Viceroy of the British Indian Empire and oversaw an accelerated plan in 1947 to achieve partition and independence, not within the 12 months as expected but in just over 70 days. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived in Pakistan yesterday for their first ever trip to the Islamic republic.
Library filer from 1965 of Earl Mountbatten of Burma. The Irish Government rejected an offer from Lord Mountbatten for the free use of his castle in County Sligo, according to newly-released files. The former Earl of Burma, who was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979, had inherited Classiebawn Castle after the death of his wife. He wrote to the Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave in March 1975 to offer the castle to the state as a gesture to cement his family's close connection with Ireland.
PACEMAKER PRESS INTL BELFAST 26/8/09. A Collect of Paul Maxwell,It was the last ever picture taken of him who was murdered with Lord Louis Mountbatten by an IRA bomb while sailing near his holiday home in County Sligo, Ireland, on 27th August, 1979
Lord Mountbatten:Murdered by the IRA
11th May 1937: Lord Louis Mountbatten chats to a spectator at a polo match at Hurlingham. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
14th March 1956: Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 - 1964) and Dr Radhakrishnan (1888 - 1975) welcoming Viscount Louis Mountbatten (1900 - 1979) and his wife to India at New Delhi Airport. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Lord Mountbatten in navy uniform 1965
Britain Queen Elizabeth II...Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, right, and her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, centre with back to camera, are greeted on their arrival at London Airort, on Feb. 7, 1952. The royal couple cut short their official trip to Kenya and returned home following the death of King George VI. Prince Philip is talking to Earl Mountbatten of Burma, left. (AP Photo)...A

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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