​‘Political theater’: Gerry Adams, Prince Charles handshake dismissed by victim of Troubles

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams. (Reuters / Cathal McNaughton)
As Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams meets Prince Charles on Tuesday to promote “reconciliation and healing" in Northern Ireland, the sister of one of the Troubles’ many Irish victims spoke out.

Speaking to RT on Tuesday, a peace activist from Derry said the meeting with the prince was largely theatrical.

I think talking is the way forward but it’s all pomp and ceremony with Charles, it’s lip service and an opportunity to buoy up his flagging popularity,” said Derry peace activist Fiona Gallagher.

Gallagher's brother was buried 39 years ago, after being killed by a British soldier at the age of 21.

The peace activist argued that the meeting, scheduled to occur in Galway, Ireland on Tuesday, was contentious.

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She said the families of those affected by the Troubles should have been consulted more. In particular, she said the victims of Bloody Sunday should have been considered.

Gallagher said that Prince Charles would be “welcomed as a royal” while those who suffered at the hands of UK forces during the troubles are still ruled by the British monarchy.

She suggested the meeting was partially aimed at improving the image of Sinn Fein in the Republic of Ireland, where the party is trying to win over middle-class voters. She predicted it would backfire, however.

I think they will lose grassroots republicans and nationalists and gain the middle classes, middle of the road money people. It’s all about the financial backing,” Gallagher told RT.

Gallagher said that peace was something that starts at a grassroots level with combatants, rather than political figures engaged in negotiations.

Reconciliation has got to start from the bottom up,” she said.

Tuesday’s meeting comes during a four-day visit by the prince to Ireland, which will also include a visit to County Sligo. While in the area, the prince is set to visit the spot his great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was assassinated by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1979.

Charles, like Mountbatten before him, is Colonel-in-Chief of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment whose record of atrocities in Northern Ireland includes the killings of civilians in both the Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy massacres at a time when Adams was a high-profile member of the IRA.

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In a statement released prior to the meeting, Adams said: “Prince Charles is the Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment. A regiment of the British Army that has been responsible for 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.

British political figures from the era of the Troubles have expressed opposition to Tuesday's meeting. Lord Tebbit, a hardline Tory minister under Margaret Thatcher and a victim of IRA violence in the 1984 Brighton hotel bombing, told the Telegraph that Adams’ comments were predictable.

“Those with the most guilty conscience talk the most,” he said.