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Prince Charles' sensitive words are in stark contrast to those of Gerry Adams

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 21/05/2015

There is no doubt that Prince Charles' visit to Mullaghmore yesterday was a very emotional occasion for the future king. The traditional stiff upper lip may not have openly quivered, but there was a wistful sadness captured momentarily in his expression as he gazed towards the sea where his great-uncle and three others were brutally killed in an IRA bombing.

The murder of Lord Louis Mountbatten, his grandson Nicholas Knatchbull, boat boy Paul Maxwell and the Dowager Lady Bradbourne may have been 36 years ago but Charles, like so many others bereaved by the Troubles, clearly still feels the pain, even if its rawness has been dulled by the passage of time.

His description of Lord Mountbatten as the grandfather he never had showed the very human side of the prince on a very public occasion. The royals may be blue bloods, but the same warmth courses through their veins in their own familial relationships as it does for the rest of us. His comments about the tortured history of Ireland and, by implication, its often stormy relationships with Britain, were unadorned by any of the caveats so often uttered by politicians.

He clearly stated the facts, apportioned no blame for the past, and instead looked to a positive future.

For those who would doubt Charles' fitness to be king - the recent publication of letters he sent to various Government ministers gave the critics some evidence of what they describe as his unwarranted meddling in affairs of State - his speech yesterday was a robust rebuttal of their criticisms.

It showed him to be a sensitive human being, well aware of the importance of what he was saying and delivering it in a masterful way. In many respects he spoke for so many of those bereaved by the Troubles who found a generosity of spirit amid their anguish to help prevent the violence deteriorating into a nihilistic doomsday, and who have helped create a new relationship between these islands.

The tone and content of his speech was in stark contrast to the self-serving comments of Gerry Adams after his meeting with the prince on Tuesday. The Sinn Fein leader had barely left the meeting when he issued a statement recalling shooting incidents involving the Parachute Regiment, of which the prince is Colonel-in-Chief. It could hardly have been more insensitive coming just after shaking the hand of a man bereaved by the republican movement.

During his visit Charles has shown a sureness of touch and tone which is an example to those who cause the peace process to stutter through their words of division.

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