Prince Charles shakes hands with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams during historic meeting

The handshake is being held as a sign of hope for ever-deepening relations between the UK and Ireland

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The Prince of Wales has shook hands with the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams at the start of a historic trip to the west of Ireland where his great uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA.

Prince Charles met Mr Adams in Galway at the start of his official four-day visit to the Republic and Northern Ireland, the first time the leader of Sinn Fein and a member of the Royal Family have met each other in the Republic of Ireland.

The two men smiled at each other and Charles held a cup of tea as they shook hands and spoke in the National University of Ireland Galway.

The handshake is being heralded as a gesture of reconciliation and a symbol of growing relations between the UK and Ireland.

The handshake comes after Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, who also greeted Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, shook hands with the Queen in Belfast in 2012, in what was also considered a turning point for relations.

Mr Adams had said earlier he hoped his meeting with Prince Charles would be "symbolic and practical", adding that he expected to shake hands with the royal.

princecharles.jpg“There is a responsibility on us all to promote reconciliation, seek to promote healing and build on the good work done by Martin McGuinness and the English Queen."

He added that it is “fair to say that Prince Charles is also looking to the future and wants to be an influence on that."

It was only in 2011 that Sinn Fein prohibited Mr McGuinness from attending the state banquet in Dublin Castle during the Queen's visit to the Republic.

Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will attend a service on the themes of peace and reconciliation at St Columba's Church, in Drumcliffe, County Sligo, during their trip.

Their historic meeting comes on the eve of Charles's trip to the seaside village of Mullaghmore, where Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA.

Lord Mountbatten was murdered along with Lady Doreen Brabourne, the 83-year-old mother-in-law of the earl's daughter, his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull, and 14-year-old Paul Maxwell, from Killynur, Enniskillen.

Additional reporting by PA