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Prince Charles meets Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams

The heir to the British throne has shaken hands with the leader of Northern Ireland's nationalist party Sinn Fein. Prince Charles' meeting with Gerry Adams is seen as a symbolic milestone in British-Irish reconciliation.

Over a cup of tea,

Britain's future king

conversed with the longtime leader of Sinn Fein during a visit to the National University of Ireland in the western city of Galway in Eire on Tuesday.

It was the first time Prince Charles had met

Gerry Adams

, who leads the party which used to be the political wing of the separatist Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland - and the first time Adams had met a senior British royal. Shortly after the meeting, the Sinn Fein party posted a message on social networking platform Twitter calling it a "significant step forward."

"He and his family were hurt and suffered great loss by the actions of Irish republicans," Adams said in a statement following the visit, referring to the IRA bombing which killed Charles' great-uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, along with three others, in 1979. Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, were due to visit the site of the killings at Mullaghmore in County Sligo on Wednesday.

Adams also said he was "conscious of the hurt inflicted on my friends and neighbors in my own community," citing Charles' position as head of the British Army's Parachute Regiment which took part in the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry.

"Thankfully the conflict is over. But there remains unresolved injustices. These must be rectified and a healing process developed," Adams said of the meeting, which followed a previous meeting between Charles' mother Queen Elizabeth II and former IRA commander and senior Sinn Fein member Martin McGuinness in Belfast in 2012.

Charles and Camilla were due to spend a total of four days visiting the Republic of Ireland and the neighboring British territory of Northern Ireland. It's Charles' third visit to the Irish Republic.

Though

security is tight for Charles' visit

, Northern Ireland has been

largely peaceful

since 1998 when a power-sharing deal ended 30 years of conflict - known as 'The Troubles' - between mainly Protestant loyalists who wanted to stay with the British crown and mainly Catholic republicans like Gerry Adams, favoring unification with Ireland.

se/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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