This month’s trip by the Prince of Wales will be “a good thing” if it contributes to the process of reconciliation between former enemies, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said.
The tour is expected to include a visit to the site of Charles’s great-uncle Lord Mountbatten’s murder by the IRA.
As well as paying their respects in Mullaghmore, in Co Sligo, where Mountbatten was killed in a bombing in August 1979, the Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, are reportedly planning to visit Dublin and Galway.
Mr McGuinness, who has acknowledged he was a member of the IRA in the early 1970s, said he had not yet had any discussions over whether he would meet Charles during the four-day trip, but was willing to consider doing so.
Mr McGuinness told Sky News’s Murnaghan: “We haven’t had any discussions about that so far. We have just had a news report that this visit will be happening, and that he intends to visit both Sligo and Galway, and the speculation is that he will visit the site of Mullaghmore where his great-uncle lost his life.
“Obviously, in terms of the acts of reconciliation that there have been with Queen Elizabeth on several occasions, if this visit fits into the whole process of reconciliation, then I think that will be a good thing.
“We have seen some very powerful symbolism over the last number of years and there are many politicians both in the north and south of Ireland who could learn from the example that has been shown in terms of the ability of people who were former opponents and enemies coming together to show good example and to attempt to build a better future through the next essential stage of the peace process, and that is a meaningful reconciliation process.”
Asked if he would be meeting the Prince, Mr McGuinness said: “If there is any offer made for that to happen, we will certainly consider it, but it would be absolutely in the context of continuum of the theme which his mother was clearly very much a part of when she came to Dublin and Belfast and met with me on several occasions.
“This is about how we can utilise these situations for the benefit of what I think is the next vital stage of our process – reconciliation.
“We should all remember how far we have come over the course of the last 20 years. The political and security situation has been transformed and many people on the island of Britain and the island of Ireland have contributed to that process and I want to see that continue.”