Prince Charles to meet Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams

Prince Charles will become the first member of the British royal family to meet Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams at the start of an official visit to the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday. The heir to the throne accepted an invitation from the Republican leader to meet in Galway, western Ireland.

The Prince accepted Gerry Adams' invitation to meet

It follows a historic handshake in 2012 between the Queen and Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, who was formerly an IRA commander. The symbolic gesture came as the monarch visited the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.

This week's meeting is another step towards reconciliation. It will be personally significant for the Prince of Wales because his great-uncle Earl Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979. The loss of Lord Mountbatten, who was his mentor, affected him very deeply.

Charles will travel to the village of Mullaghmore in County Sligo where the assassination took place, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall. He will attend a service of peace and reconciliation before travelling to Northern Ireland to visit a peace and reconciliation centre in County Antrim.

Sinn Fein leaders Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams

Mr Adams has been president of Sinn Fein, which operates on both sides of the border, since 1983, but has always denied being a member of the IRA.

Ahead of their meeting, the Republican politician described it as "an opportunity to promote reconciliation and build on the good work done by Martin McGuinness and the English Queen".

He said: "Prince Charles is the colonel-in-chief of the Parachute Regiment - a regiment of the British army that has been responsible for the killing of 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 remain unresolved injustices. These must be rectified and a healing process developed. There is a responsibility on us all to promote reconciliation and seek to promote healing."