Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams caused controversy today when he met ‘Prince of Wales’ Charles Windsor in a meet-and-greet opportunity during the first day of his four-day royal tour through Ireland
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams caused controversy today when he met ‘Prince of Wales’ Charles Windsor in a meet-and-greet opportunity during the first day of his four-day royal tour through Ireland.
Mr Adams arrived at the National University of Ireland, Galway at about midday and said he presumed he would shake Charles’ hand during his visit to the college. He said he hoped the meeting would contribute to reconciliation in the north of Ireland.
“I don’t have any expectations other than this being an engagement which I hope is symbolic and practical, and will assist that entire process,” he said.
After some behind-the-scenes choreography, Charles approached Adams and while gripping a cup of tea, exchanged pleasantries before Adams introduced him to local Sinn Fein representative Trevor O Clochartaigh.
In Derry and Belfast, relatives of some of those killed at the hands of Charles’ Parachute Regiment in the Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy massacres led protests against the visit, and reiterated their demands for truth and justice.
There were also calls for the British government to finally hand over files relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, which took place 41 years ago this week. Sinn Fein’s MP for west Belfast Paul Maskey joined the Ballymurphy protest, even as his party leader was preparing to welcome the royal visitors.
In a statement issued ahead of the meeting, Adams noted that the prince had been bereaved by an IRA attack in which his cousin, (‘Earl’) Louis Mountbatten, was killed in 1979. But he also said that Charles’s regiment in the British Army had been directly responsible for the murder of scores of Irish civilians.
“Prince Charles is Colonel-in-chief of the Parachute Regiment, a unit of the British army responsible for killing many Irish citizens, including in Derry, Ballymurphy, Springhill and other communities across the north.”
“But he also has been bereaved by the actions of republicans. Thankfully the conflict is over. But there remains unresolved injustices. These must be rectified and a healing process developed.”
Tory party grandee, (‘Lord’) Norman Tebbit, accused Mr Adams of having a “guilty conscience” for saying that British Army paratroopers were responsible for a number of massacres.
Tebbit, the former Cabinet minister who was himself injured in an IRA bomb attack in 1984, said Adams’s references were the sign of a “guilty conscience”. “It is what I would have expected,” he said. “Those with the most guilty conscience talk the most.”
Tomorrow, Lissadell House is part of the royal itinerary in Sligo, which begins with a civic reception. Former Sinn Fein mayor of Sligo Sean McManus, whose son Joseph was killed in a gun battle with British Crown forces in the North in 1992, will attend the function.
Anti-monarchy campaigners who organised a roadside protest in Galway condemned reports that Irish schoolchildren are being coached on how to use royal protocol while speaking to Charles and his wife Camilla.
Meanwhile, republicans in Dublin are organising a vigil at 6pm this evening at O’Connell Street in memory of all the victims of British state violence.
Kate Nash, whose 19-year-old brother William was shot dead by British Parachute Regiment soldiers during Bloody Sunday said she was furious at Sinn Fein’s approach to the visit.
Thirteen people were shot dead by the British Army on Sunday, 30 January 1972 at a civil rights march in Derry. A 14th man died later from his wounds.
“I’m disgusted and furious at the very fact that Sinn Fein are going to be entertaining Prince Charles here. What they are doing is utterly disgraceful. It’s indefensible.
“If Prince Charles did anything like use his influence to get the disgraced parachute regiment disbanded, then I would welcome the man himself,” she said.
“Sinn Fein are in the business of cleaning up the dirty war that was inflicted on the people here during the troubles.”
Ms Nash said she failed to see what healing could be gained from the meeting, and that her brother “has still not got justice.”
“It’s almost five years since we had an apology from the British prime minister concerning Bloody Sunday and to date not one soldier has been questioned about those crimes.
“Surely if the man (Prince Charles) has some integrity, he should reject that title and use his influence to have the parachute regiment disbanded.”