Historic handshake between Prince Charles and Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has claimed he had a meeting of minds talking to the Prince of Wales about lives lost in Northern Ireland's 30-year conflict.
On the opening day of his trip to Ireland, the republican leader and Prince Charles shared a historic handshake to set the tone for the symbolically charged four-day visit before the men held a 10-minute private discussion.
Mr Adams said the two men expressed regrets over deaths in the Troubles and spoke about the 1979 IRA bombing in which his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten was murdered, and other atrocities.
"Both he and we expressed our regret for what happened from 1968 onwards," Mr Adams said.
"We were of a common mind and the fact that the meeting took place, it obviously was a big thing for him to do and a big thing for us to do."
Charles agreed to the meeting at the National University of Ireland Galway after a request by the Sinn Fein president, a move which would have been unthinkable until a few years ago.
Their handshake comes three years after the party's vice president and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness shook hands with the Queen. Both are regarded as events of historical significance.
The poignant royal visit will take an emotional turn tomorrow when Charles visits the assassination site in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, and meets some of those who pulled the earl and the other dead and injured from the Atlantic.
Lord Mountbatten, 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 600 yards from the harbour of the normally peaceful fishing village of Mullaghmore.
He was murdered 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.
It is understood royal sources are looking on the meeting with Mr Adams as productive and conciliatory and that due credit is being given to the Queen.
Earlier today, Prince Charles was congratulated on the birth of his grand daughter Princess Charlotte minutes after landing at Shannon Airport.
A delighted Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, thanked Shannon Group Chairman Rose Hynes after she took the opportunity to congratulate him on the birth of the baby princess earlier this month.
"We were delighted to welcome the Prince and Duchess here to Shannon and it was another very important day for us at the airport. Prince Charles was very relaxed and was looking forward to his visit," Ms Hynes said.
"He was very friendly and warm. He was only here for a brief time on arrival but I did get to congratulate him on the birth of his granddaughter Princess Charlotte. He was like any grandfather, very proud. He said ‘that’s so kind; it’s wonderful that it’s a girl’.”
The royals landed at the airport shortly before midday today for their official four day visit to Ireland.
The couple were welcomed by Ms Hynes, Shannon Airport CEO Neil Pakey, Clare TD Pat Breen and Deputy Mayor of Clare County Council Joe Cooney.
While talking to to Ms Hynes, the British prince also expressed his desire to see the Burren.
"I explained to him that I was from the Burren and he said that the author and poet John O’Donoghue had always wanted him to come to the Burren. I knew John O’Donoghue personally and said to Prince Charles that John would be delighted today if he were still alive to know that the visit was happening," Ms Hynes.
Shannon Group CEO Neil Pakey said the couple were in a relaxed mood.
“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.
“It was quite windy here on arrival but the Duchess said she was pleased to be here and that the weather was no different to home.
“It’s been a very busy few days here at Shannon. On Sunday we welcomed Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and today we have the Prince and Duchess.”
Deputy Pat Breen said that it was a pleasure to welcome Prince Charles and the Duchess to Shannon and Ireland. “It’s a very significant day for Shannon, for Clare, for the West of Ireland and the entire nation. This is an important visit for Prince Charles and the Duchess and, indeed, for Ireland.
“I am delighted that they have decided to fly in through Shannon, the gateway to this wonderful part of Ireland. They will feel the warmth of our welcome across the region. This visit will further strengthen relations between Ireland and the UK and I am personally delighted that it’s all starting here in Co. Clare at Shannon Airport.”
The Royal couple concluded the first day of their tour by joining Irish president Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina for a private dinner. They dined at Lough Cutra Castle in south County Galway.
The historic building, which overlooks the picturesque Lough Cutra, provided a grand setting for the Royals' final engagement.
On arrival, the couples greeted each other in the stone-tiled hallway before retiring to the ornate Gough room. It is understood Charles and President Higgins developed a good rapport during the latter's state visit to the UK last year.
They again spent time in each other's company when both attended commemorative events in Turkey last month to mark the centenary of the First World War's ill-fated Gallipoli campaign.
On the menu at the castle tonight was blanched Highgrove asparagus to start, followed by pan seared halibut, with pannacotta and poached Highgrove rhubarb for dessert