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Gerry Adams and Prince Charles: Opposite types who have so much in common

By Malachi O'Doherty

Published 20/05/2015

Prince Charles
Prince Charles

Gerry Adams and Prince Charles might seem like an awkward coupling, two men who were never likely to meet and who have nothing in common.

Actually, in some ways they are so similar that one might almost imagine they could hit it off and become friends.

They were born a month apart. Gerry is the older one. So they have lived through the same history, though as enemies. Each was the first child of the family.

They were both separated from their families for the formative years of childhood. Gerry was sent to live with Granny Adams in the lower Falls; Charles was sent to a prep school.

Intriguingly, when asked about his childhood reading by the broadcasting psychiatrist Anthony Clare, Gerry cited his favourites as Just William and Jennings And Darbishire, a book about the antics of a clever chappie in an English public school.

Both men are religious believers of a certain slant. They have stayed within their respective churches but both tend towards New Age spirituality and the worship of nature.

Charles is said to talk to plants while Gerry Adams hugs trees.

There is, according to Martin McGuinness, a photograph somewhere of Adams hugging a tree in the garden of 10 Downing Street. Both men are nature lovers, specifically of the heather and the hills.

And the landscape that attracts them is the same - north Donegal for Gerry, the Scottish Highlands for Charles.

Both Charles and Gerry are militarists of a type. Charles is Commodore of the Atlantic Fleet and Gerry has been a member of the IRA Executive and chief of staff on the IRA Army Council.

Charles is also a general at the head of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, appointed to those ranks by his mother.

Neither, perhaps, has ever fired a shot in anger, or at least not many shots.

Charles is not expected to take the helm should war break out in the Atlantic. Gerry may have made more actual strategic decisions, but old comrades see him as having been largely 'non-operational'.

A former prisoner in Long Kesh says that Gerry once turned up for a lecture on how to strip down an AK-47. He said he was "just keeping his hand in", but was laughed at by IRA gunmen there who expected to make more practical use of what they learnt that day.

Both men write stories.

Charles has written for children, notably a book called the Old Man Of Lochnagar.

Gerry has compiled a couple of collections of short stories - some of them quite good - and has written two volumes of autobiography, parts of which are transparently fanciful. And both write as prolifically as a working journalist would about the issues that matter to them; Gerry turning out articles and blog entries, Charles writing letters to ministers and others of influence, offering his guidance and support. And both like ball games - polo for Charles and hurling for Gerry.

Gerry likes the poc fada, a hurling contest to see who can belt the sliotar farthest.

So these are two men who would have much to talk about.

And they could talk in Gaelic together, though Charles would be using the Scots version.

Gerry tested him yesterday with "An bhfuil tu go maith?" if I heard him right, but the conversation dried up fairly quickly.

But Gerry has had such close acquaintance with British diplomats and other Heads of State over the years that he could no doubt settle easily into the flow of conversation by a log fire at Balmoral.

He is well placed to empathise with the burden of being Charles and heir to the throne.

Both men suffer a similar affliction. They are certainly held by many in enormous esteem, but few are indifferent to either of them, and beyond the wide circle or admirers, even devotees, they are both regarded with bemusement, even ridicule.

They are seen as men of destiny who yet have petty interests.

They both know what it is like to be surrounded by adoring flunkies and yet to be sneered at in the media.

And often they both look as if they would rather be somewhere else than performing awkwardly for the cameras.

Maybe they should have met out on the bog, with blackthorns in their hands. Charles could have shot a couple of wild birds and they'd have got on mightily.

That chance may come again.

If the dreams of each are fulfilled, their destinies will cross again and Uachtaran Adams may have a chance to entertain King Charles.

Read more:

Prince Charles' royal visit to Ireland: In pictures  

Why glad-handing royals has nothing to do with the peace  

Prince Charles royal visit: Bloody Sunday widow tells granddaughter to sing her heart out for peace

Prince Charles has nothing to apologise for but is happy to forgive - it's a pity Gerry Adams can't do the same  

A day of firsts as Prince Charles shakes hands on peace and lives dream on Burren  

Royal visit to take a sombre tone as Prince Charles remembers great-uncle slain by IRA at Mullaghmore  

Gerry Adams has no apology for Lord Mountbatten murder - earl 'knew the dangers' of coming to Ireland

Charles visits Sligo art gallery  

Foster attacks BBC for 'lack of balance' in report  

Gerry Adams in 'meeting of minds' with Prince Charles  

I'm a Fred Astaire fan says Charles  

Prince Charles' 'regret' over deaths during Northern Ireland Troubles  

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