Northern Ireland news

Gerry Kelly shakes Prince Charles' hand

Prince Charles shakes hands with Sinn Féin assembly member Gerry Kelly at Carlisle Memorial Church in Belfast where he is meeting the organisations involved in the regeneration of the building as a permanent home for the Ulster Orchestra. Picture by Brian Lawless, PA Wire

The Prince of Wales has shaken hands with former IRA bomber and Sinn Féin assembly member Gerry Kelly during a visit to Belfast.

Mr Kelly escaped from the Maze Prison in 1983 while serving a jail sentence for the 1973 bombing of the Old Bailey.

He was later a senior member of Sinn Fein's negotiating team and embraced the peace process, serving as a minister in the powersharing Executive.

Charles has spoken many times about reconciliation in Ireland and has previously met Gerry Adams, offering condolences on the death of Martin McGuinness.

He began a two-day trip to Northern Ireland today with a recital by the Ulster Orchestra in a 19th century Methodist church in Belfast which is undergoing major restoration.

Sinn Féin's former culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin and Mr Kelly were among those to meet the royal visitor.

The prince toured the Carlisle Memorial Church, which has served as a gateway to north Belfast since 1875.

The neo-Gothic building was at the heart of one of the most troubled parts of Belfast, Charles's host, the Belfast Buildings Trust, said.

In 2015, the prince visited nearby St Patrick's Catholic Church, which was at the heart of disputes involving loyalist band parades.

He has often touched on the theme of reconciliation during recent visits to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Charles will also visit Ulster University in Coleraine, Co Derry, to help celebrate its 50th anniversary.

On Wednesday, he will visit Omagh Hospital in Co Tyrone and later, in the town of Omagh, will be joined by the Duchess of Cornwall to meet those affected by the 1998 Real IRA bomb which killed 29 people including a woman pregnant with twins. 

At the request of the British Government, Charles and Camilla will travel to the south of the Republic for two days later this week.

Their itinerary includes the English Market in Cork City previously toured by the Queen during her groundbreaking 2011 visit, and Co Kerry, where they will see the ancestral home of 19th century Irish statesman Daniel O'Connell, Derrynane House.

 Gerry Kelly and Sinn Fein's former culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin greeted Prince Charles. Picture by Brian Lawless, PA Wire

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