The Sinn Féin president, Mary Lou McDonald, has apologised for the IRA’s 1979 murder of Lord Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh’s uncle.
Speaking after the funeral of Prince Philip, she told Times Radio she was sorry that Mountbatten, 79, had been killed when the fishing boat he was on was blown up by an IRA bomb.
Asked if she would be willing to apologise to Prince Charles, who regarded Mountbatten as almost a grandfather, she said: “The army and armed forces associated with Prince Charles carried out many, many violent actions on our island.
“I can say of course I am sorry that happened. Of course, that is heartbreaking. My job, and I think that Prince Charles and others would absolutely appreciate this, my job is to lead from the front, now, in these times.”
She added: “I believe it is all our jobs to ensure that no other child, no other family, no matter who they are, suffers the same trauma and heartbreak that was all too common on all sides of this island and beyond.
“I have an absolute responsibility to make sure that no family faces that again and I am happy to reiterate that on the weekend that your Queen buried her beloved husband.”
Mountbatten was killed while fishing off the coast of Mullaghmore, County Sligo, where he had been holidaying in his summer home of Classiebawn Castle. Also killed were his 14-year-old grandson, Nicholas Knatchbull, schoolboy crew member Paul Maxwell, 15, on holiday from Enniskillen, and Lady Doreen Brabourne, the 83-year-old mother-in-law of Mountbatten’s daughter.
The apology represents a change in tone from that of McDonald’s predecessor, Gerry Adams, who, while expressing regret for the murder, has previously said Mountbatten knew the risks of travelling to Ireland. The IRA maintained Mountbatten was a legitimate target.
Her comments come six years after Adams and Prince Charles shook hands during a historic meeting at the National University of Ireland Galway in 2015. Speaking afterwards, Adams stood by his comment that Mountbatten “knew the danger”.
Charles went to Mullaghmore on that same visit, where he spoke of his “anguish of such a deep loss”. He added: “Through this dreadful experience, though, I now understand in a profound way the agonies borne by so many others in these islands, of whatever faith, denomination or political tradition.”