A visit by British royals to Ireland has again polarised republicans, with protests organised as leading Sinn Fein figures greeted Charles Windsor and his wife Camilla.
The ‘Prince of Wales’, the Colonel-in-Chief of the British Army’s Parachute regiment, shook hands with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams during a visit to the British Ambassador’s residence in County Dublin.
It was the last official engagement of the four-day visit of the royal couple, their third visit in as many years.
On the final engagement of their Irish visit, Windsor and his wife were greeted on the lawn by Mr Adams and other Irish political leaders inclding Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Labour leader Brendan Howlin, Fianna Fail’s Sean Haughey and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.
In a conversation with Mr Adams, Windsor paid his condolences to the Sinn Fein leader on the recent death of his colleague Martin McGuinness, who had developed a strong relationship with the British royal family.
He said that he had written to Ms McGuinness’s widow, and also joked with Mr Adams that the two of them were born in the same year, 1948.
On Thursday, Windsor was entertained in Kilkenny where he met local Sinn Fein representative Kathleen Funchion and was entertained by a demonstration of gaelic hurling skills.
“While I acknowledge that this is a difficult issue for some republicans I believe that it is the right thing to do,” Ms Funchion said. “This is about building on the work of Martin McGuinness and others.”
The Royal couple also travelled to Derry city to visit Altnagelvin hospital, near the site of the Parachute regiment’s Bloody Sunday massacre, and later attended a memorial for PSNI officers in Belfast.
Mr Adams said the visit of Windsor was “about reconciliation” but that there also needed to be reconciliation in the streets, along country lanes and at a community level.
“This sets a good example for everyone,” he said. “One of the key points out of visits like this, and engagements like this is that we are showing a way to keep moving forward, in a peaceful way, a harmonious way, a way that brings people together.”
Mr Adams said that by meeting Windsor he was not stepping into the role played by the late Martin McGuinness but that he would play his part in future engagements.
“Wherever I can and whenever I can, I want to be part of all of this,” he said.
“The history is the history. It is really, really important but the future hasn’t been written and we need to write the future and it needs to be, particularly in these Brexit days, a history which is based upon the best that we can possibly get for all the people of this island.”
PROTEST AT GLASNEVIN
On Friday Windsor took part in a ceremony at Glasnevin Cemetery for the dead of the First World War and those who died fighting in the 1916 Easter Rising. He laid a wreath at a controversial monument which lists those who died fighting for freedom alongside the British troopers who were killed in the battle to suppress the Rising.
Republican Sinn Fein held a protest, and accused the authorities of imposing the royals on the communities of Finglas and Glasnevin in a “choreographed play of normality” which involved hundreds of uniformed and plain-clothes police.
As the convoy of vehicles approached the graveyard, RSF said their activists were assaulted by Gardai and a megaphone taken from them by plain-clothes police.
“Today’s show follows on from the stage-managed pieces in other parts of Ireland, both occupied and 26-County, they said. “We object to giving any members of the British colonial royal family a welcome and a waste of taxpayers’ monies to fund such a visit.
“The Parachute Regiment murdered 11 civilians in Ballymurphy, Belfast in August 1971 and 14 innocent civilians in Derry in January 1972 and many more thereafter. Republicans stand firm against the 26-County State’s wishes to denigrate the memory of our Republican dead.”