It is not often, even for princes, that history gets made with a cup of tea in one’s spare hand, but that’s exactly what happened today when Prince Charles shook hands with Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein and one of the most senior and controversial Irish republicans of recent decades.
Charles agreed to the meeting after a request by the Sinn Fein president, a move which clearly demonstrates just how far down the road of conflict resolution Northern Irish republicans and the British have come.
The two men smiled at each other as they shook hands for several seconds and exchanged words as the prince toured the National University of Ireland, Galway today at the beginning of a four-day tour of Ireland.
A little tea, unaware of its starring role, slopped from Charles's teacup as he and Mr Adams greeted each other. At least it landed neatly on his saucer.
It is Charles’s first official visit to Ireland in 13 years.
Tomorrow, Charles will visit the stunning seaside village of Mullaghmore, County Sligo, where his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA.
The 79-year-old cousin of the Queen was blown up in his boat by the IRA as he gathered lobster pots in the harbor of the normally peaceful fishing village.
Mr Adams said today, “I don’t have any expectations other than this being an engagement which I hope is symbolic and practical…There’s a lot of hurt, a lot of grief, but we have to make sure all our steps are forward.”
Earlier in the day, Prince Charles was congratulated on the birth of his granddaughter Princess Charlotte minutes after landing at Shannon Airport.
An airport manager told the Independent, “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 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,” said Ms Hynes.