Why Gerry Adams Should Give Prince Charles A Big Thank-You Hug!

Ed Moloney on what gesture Gerry Adams might make to Prince Charles at today's meeting in Galway. Ed Moloney is an Irish investigative journalist. He was the project director for Boston College’s oral history project. He blogs at The Broken Elbow.   

As I write this, the jungle telegraph from Ireland is signalling that Gerry Adams might shake the hand of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, at some point during his controversial visit to Ireland, which begins tomorrow (Tuesday).

Should that happen he really ought to consider adding a thank-you hug, for reasons I will explain below.

Prince Charles with ‘Uncle Dickie’, Lord Louis Mountbatten
The high point of the Prince’s visit will, of course, be his trip to Mullaghmore in Co Sligo where Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Queen’s cousin but known to Charles as ‘Uncle Dickie’, was blown to pieces by an IRA ‘line of sight’ radio-controlled bomb hidden on his holiday boat on August 27th, 1979.

Some hours later on the other side of Ireland, at a place called Narrow Water not far from Warrenpoint on the shores of Carlingford Lough, eighteen British soldiers, many of them members of the Parachute Regiment of which Prince Charles, as Gerry Adams reminded us recently, is Colonel-in-Chief, were blown to pieces in a double explosion.
The remains of the Commanding Officer of the Queens Own Highlanders, Lt Col David Blair, who flew in a helicopter with his soldiers to rescue the ambushed Paras, were never recovered. His body is believed to have been vaporised in the blast. A member of special RUC undercover unit tasked with collecting the remains of the dead told me in an interview that he found a hand embedded in a nearby tree by its fingernails.

The scene of the Warrenpoint ambush
The scene of the Warrenpoint ambush
It was, arguably, the most traumatic and violent day experienced by the British state during the Troubles and it immediately pitched the North into a security and political crisis, the first of many for the newly elected British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

But, for the recently installed new leadership of the IRA and especially their leader and strategy guru, Gerry Adams, the two strikes that day meant that it was an occasion for celebration and not just for the obvious reasons.

The events that day served to vindicate completely their toppling of the previous leadership, often simplistically identified with Ruairi O Bradaigh and Daithi O Connail, the 1975 ceasefire and the near-defeat then experienced by the IRA, and validated the military changes, and by extension the political re-orientation introduced by what would soon be known as ‘the Adams’ leadership’. The symbol of these changes was the introduction of a cellular system into IRA structures, although it was far more complicated than that.
Gerry Adams, circa 1979
Gerry Adams, circa 1979
However the real significance of that bloody day in August 1979 was that it transformed Adams and all his allies into an untouchable leadership which, in the eyes of the Provo grassroots, could do no wrong. They had said the old leadership had been disastrously wrong, that they had the ideas to revive the IRA and the deaths of Mountbatten and the 18 British soldiers at Warrenpoint proved them right.


Now I have come to believe that this narrative is in many important ways flawed and simplistic – but that is a subject for another day. But there is no doubt that the consequence of that day was that as far as the grassroots was concerned, from thereon the Adams’ leadership could do no wrong.

Now is it possible that even without Mountbatten and Warrenpoint, Adams and his allies could have pushed the Provos down the road of electoral politics and from there ultimately into the peace process. But I don’t think there is any doubt that the assassination of Lord Mountbatten made it all a whole lot easier.

Mounbatten on his boat with friends on a happier day
Mounbatten on his boat with friends on a happier day
That’s why if, or when, Gerry Adams shakes hands with Prince Charles he might consider also giving him a hug of gratitude, for having an ‘Uncle Dickie’ that the IRA could dispatch to eternity.

Without him, Gerry Adams might not now be where he is.

This is what I wrote about the assassination of Mountbatten and Warrenpoint in ‘A Secret History of the IRA’, second edition. Enjoy:


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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

7 comments to ''Why Gerry Adams Should Give Prince Charles A Big Thank-You Hug!"

  1. 30 years of wasted lives all round for Gerry and Marty to get another photo op'. The reality is there will be no difference to the political system north or south as a result of the SF electoral strategy. It is merely now obviously personal opportunism disguised as a tactic. Even if it didn't begin as that, it has been corralled by the constitutional political establishments of Ireland and the UK into that cul de sac. It wont get any better from here on in either.

    Chances are Ed's analysis is flawed here as S. Armagh would likely have done these attacks regardless of who was in charge of the Provos. I know O'Bradaigh said Mountbatten would only have been a target on occupied soil but that was likely political gamesmanship. He was a legitimate target at the time. 'Goodbye Louis'.

    The handshake when it comes may finally signal the official death of the Provos and signal a gradual slide back to original voting patterns for nationalists.

  2. Its with mixed and confused emotion that I begin my comment today.

    On the 27th Aug 1979 I arrived in Bundoran after having spent a couple of days and nights in Buncranna at the Fleadh and a day and night in Letterkenny at the Folk Festival. On arrival in Bundoran myself and my travelling companions immediately retired to Joe O'Neills' hostelry to ease our hang-over. The news of the earlier events in Mullaghmore had just come through. Shortly afterwards the initial reports from Narrow-water came through too and as the evening and night passed the causality list increased. Its with shame I now remember the desensitised savageness of our triumphant responses to each news bulletin.

    When I read of plans for Adams and McGuinness to meet with the heir to the British throne in Galway today, for Sean McManus (whose son Joe died on active service and whose funeral I attended) plans to meet with him in Sligo tomorrow I struggle with the dishonesty of how events unfolded and as to how things were and continue to be orchestrated.

    As regular readers will know I've come to see and regret the ways of my past, I've come to see through the improbability if not the impossibility of the dogma, myth and lore of Irish Republicanism but days like this still challenge me.

    Its difficult now to accept that part of me that supported the murder of non-combatant teenagers and pensioners without feelings of great shame. And yet I am aware that in context such blind support for political violence was not that far from the norm too. What perplexes and frustrates me most is that so few are prepared to take the risk of an honest appraisal of the republican project in its entirety and draw some prudent and functional conclusions as to our on-going and future relationships with our former colonial masters and with unionism.

    Whereas I do welcome the symbolic significance of the handshakes today and tomorrow I resent the dishonest packaging.

  3. Henry JoY

    Mixed and confused emotion. Seems to me about the only sane and rational response to many decades of pain, to years that have forced so many to reconcile ideals and traditions with the simple day-to-day realities of living with other human beings, of maintaining dignity while recognizing the desire of others to do the same. You express so well what many a Belfast friend has felt, and now feels. My best pal took up a gun to defend the Lower Falls in the early 70s, but he couldn't envision all that would happen after. Nor did he expect to have his family brutalized by those whom he would have considered his ideological brothers in arms.

    It's easy to finger point and blame and enshrine a bitterness, but to do so forever wears the heart down to a nub. That's plain to see. You've obviously chosen another path. "What perplexes and frustrates me most is that so few are prepared to take the risk of an honest appraisal of the republican project in its entirety and draw some prudent and functional conclusions as to our on-going and future relationships with our former colonial masters and with unionism." Well said. Good luck to you Henry JoY.

  4. Henry joy

    lets hope unionists can move away from the Gregory Campbell position of Bloody Sunday being an early xmas present in January from the Paras. But a community that is founded on the notion that their 'law and order' made them morally correct and their military always correct will hardly change too much. Until we see signs of it I think you beat yourself up far too much. Grow a pair of balls for fuck sake.

  5. Larry

    A more restrained comment than is your wont. Thank you for that.

    The essence of what we both said in our original comments is not that different. It would be a mistake on your behalf to misinterpret informed sensitivity and a normal reclaimed human vulnerability for submissiveness or cowardice.

    Sure it'd be great if the likes of Campbell would 'move on' but that's not within our direct control. We can though bring some influence to that by taking responsibility for our own actions and utterances. If we drop the vitriol and rise above our more base instincts we will avoid prolonging what most educated or decent people now see as a tragic farce. By taking such measures it's more than likely that the outdated supremacist tendencies and remaining bigoted behaviours will be exposed for what they are .... and exposed more quickly.

  6. Henry joy

    Perfidious Albion has a long history of applying the 'cheese-wire' to the neck of those it draws to its bosom. Libya the most recent example. Unfortunately Adams and McGuinness will not suffer such a fate. They are more likely to sit either side of Charles at the GPO on Easter Sunday 2016. Charles can celebrate by holding the hands of arguably the two greatest counter insurgency assets in UK colonial history.

    Personally I think Charles is entitled to visit Mullaghmore in a personal capacity. It is unfortunate this type of choreographed crap continues to give the oxygen of publicity to king paedo Adams.

    My 'pair of balls' comment was in gest...should have clarified that.


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