Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has been accused of stoking tensions between the UK and Ireland by referring to the IRA murder of Prince Charles's great uncle Lord Mountbatten, on the eve of Charles's historic trip to the village where Mountbatten died.
Ahead of meeting Prince Charles today, Adams referred to the killing of Mountbatten, the Queen's cousin who mentored Charles and was called "Honorary Grandfather" by the Prince, before he was killed in the bombing in 1979.
One of the most poignant stops on Charles's official four-day visit to the Republic and Northern Ireland will be on Wednesday, when he arrives at Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, where the atrocity took place.
But IRA bomb victim Lord Tebbit accused Adams of having a "guilty conscience" for bringing up the killing, and for also saying that Charles's army unit is responsible for killing "many Irish citizens" in what appeared to be a veiled reference to Bloody Sunday. British Army soldiers from the Parachute Regiment shot 14 Irish people dead in Derry in 1972, and Charles is now Colonel-in-chief of the regiment.
Gerry Adams said that Charles' regiment killed "many Irish citizens"
Adams also acknowledged that the Royal Family's loss, saying Charles had been "bereaved by the actions of republicans".
Adams said: “At the time of the announcement of the visit I said that it should be an opportunity to promote reconciliation and build on the good work done by Martin McGuinness and the English queen.
“Prince Charles is Colonel-in-chief of the Parachute Regiment, a unit of the British army responsible for killing many Irish citizens, including in Derry, Ballymurphy, Springhill and other communities across the north."
"But he also has been bereaved by the actions of republicans," Adams continued. "Thankfully the conflict is over. But there remains unresolved injustices. These must be rectified and a healing process developed.
Prince Charles with his great uncle Lord Mountbatten
“There is a responsibility on us all to promote reconciliation and seek to promote healing. It is with that in mind that the Ard Chomhairle (national executive) decided that Sinn Féin representatives will attend a number of events during this visit.”
Lord Tebbit, the former Cabinet minister who was seriously injured when he was targeted by an IRA bomb in 1984, told The Daily Telegraph Adams's references were the sign of a “guilty conscience”. “It is what I would have expected," he said. "Those with the most guilty conscience talk the most.”
Charles, who is said to be excited by the prospect of his first official visit to Ireland in 13 years, will be in Mullaghmore tomorrow, following a service of peace and reconciliation at St Columba's Church, in nearby Drumcliffe.
The village is synonymous with the murder of his great uncle Lord Mountbatten on August 27 1979.
The 79-year-old cousin of the Queen was targeted by the IRA as he set off with family and a local teenager to gather lobster pots and fish for shrimp less than 600m from the harbour of the normally peaceful fishing village.
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.
The meeting with Mr Adams ahead of a visit to the site of his great-uncle's murder, and combining it with the themes at the prayer service a few miles away, is widely seen as the next phase in deepening relations, friendships and bonds between the UK and Ireland.
A house in Mullaghmore, Sligo, where Mountbatten was killed
A senior source in the Sinn Fein party confirmed Charles will meet Mr Adams as he starts his trip today.
All Ireland's main political leaders have been invited to National University Ireland Galway, but the prospect of the visit beginning with the first meeting of a royal and a Sinn Fein leader in the Irish Republic will undoubtedly set the tone.
It also follows Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness shaking hands with the Queen in Belfast in 2012.
On Twitter, some debated whether Charles should shake Adams's hand at all:
Sinn Fein also confirmed that both Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness would be meeting the Prince during his four days on the island.
Declan Kearney, chair of the party, said: "This was agreed to promote the process of resolving past injustices and promoting reconciliation and healing."
Charles, who will be joined over the four days by the Duchess of Cornwall, will also visit the grave of Irish poet WB Yeats, who is buried under the shadow of Benbulben.
On the eve of the trip, Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said: "The visit programme celebrates the depth and potential of 21st century Irish-British links, while also acknowledging more difficult moments from the past."
"I recall that the Prince of Wales had made peace and reconciliation central themes in his previous official visits in 1995 and 2002, both of which came during important stages of the Northern Ireland Peace Process.
"Reconciliation and dealing with the past are issues that can still challenge us, and were the subject of the Stormont House Agreement reached in Belfast last December. We are now working hard to realise the potential of that agreement."
Mr Flanagan acknowledged the personal side of the trip and added: "Above all we will celebrate the strength of Irish-British relations today."
It will be the royal couple's first official engagement in Ireland, but not the first time in the country for either of them. Both have visited many times in a personal capacity, including the Prince's trips to the Duke of Devonshire's Lismore Castle in Co Cork.
Charles was last in the Republic on formal business in 2002 and had previously been in the country in 1995.
Despite that the visit is no less historic. The invitation to the west of Ireland was extended after the Prince and Duchess welcomed President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina on an official trip to Britain last year.
The list of engagements begins today at the university, where the city's and the college's links with Britain will be marked.
Charles will then attend the Marine Institute, where he will be met by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, before travelling south to the Burren in County Clare, an ancient and dramatic stony outcrop famed for its rare plant life, biodiversity and archaeology.
Both engagements will allow the Prince to highlight environment and conservation projects.
Tonight they will join President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina for a private dinner in Lough Cutra Castle.
The royal couple will travel to Sligo on their second day, beginning with a civic reception featuring performances of Irish poetry and music and a viewing of the Niland Art Collection at the Model contemporary arts centre before moving on to the local institute of technology.
The significant engagement at Mullaghmore follows with the royals having an opportunity to meet with some of those who rescued the Mountbatten party.
On May 21, the royals will arrive in Northern Ireland where engagements include a reception and concert featuring performers from the region at Hillsborough Castle.
Charles and Camilla will visit Mount Stewart house and gardens and mark the completion of a three-year restoration programme.
They will also visit Corrymeela, Northern Ireland's oldest Peace and Reconciliation centre, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and the return follows the Prince's trip to the centre in 1998.